Vermillion looks back on Henderson City Council experience

At heart, Kathleen Vermillion is all about her family.

“When politicians have resigned from office for personal reasons, people always assume they did something bad,” Vermillion said.

But after more than two years juggling her nonprofit charity, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, her Ward 3 City Council seat and caring for three children, Alexander, Ronnie and Aurora, something had to give. Vermillion knew her family and charity had to come first.

Vermillion, whose last council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today, is slated to leave her seat Jan. 1.

After Alex was convicted of drunken driving and transferred to a sober living facility in San Diego, Vermillion realized she needed to focus more on her family.

“Before I started campaigning (in 2009), my son (Alex) was an honor student and on the wrestling team,” Vermillion said. “My daughter currently is an honor student and on the soccer team.”

Vermillion hopes to regain that focus on all three children.

Ronnie, the oldest, is Vermillion’s adopted son.

“It feels weird saying he is adopted,” Vermillion said. “He looks like us. I told him one way or another, his soul would have come to our family. I love him like my own.”

Vermillion met Ronnie through the nonprofit.

“I had opened my home before to kids,” Vermillion said. “I had never crossed that professional boundary and allowed a kid to move in to my home. I would never do it again.”

It might have been the emotion behind Ronnie’s blue eyes or the fact that he had been in more than 20 foster homes. Either way, when Ronnie came to live with Vermillion, she said she couldn’t have imagined him going anywhere else.

Along with her family, the nonprofit also will get Vermillion’s full attention after the transition.

“We hit a few bumps in the road,” Vermillion said.

Vermillion has served as the chief operations officer of the partnership, which she founded from her own experience as a runaway and homeless youth.

At one point, Vermillion remembers couch surfing at houses in the Pittman area, which she would later serve as a councilwoman.

The organization does outreach to runaways and homeless teens while investing in teens through an in-house shelter program, Vermillion said.

“We are pretty much raising 16 teens,” Vermillion said. “We have a very high success rate. I think we are probably one of the best services in the country. We are heads and shoulders above many other organizations.”

Vermillion said nine out of 10 teens go to college after they leave the program with the mission to give back the way they were invested in.

Because she and many of the board members have experienced what it is like on the streets as a teen, Vermillion said the organization does everything from a client’s perspective.

“We don’t cut corners,” Vermillion said. “Our kids are spoiled. We have been criticized on it, as a matter of fact.”

Vermillion said the goal is that teens coming through the program can fit in with other youths in school by having the same things such as clothes.

But caring for children is just one part of Vermillion’s responsibility. She and the board have to do fundraising, case management, employee management, payroll, oversee donor relations and handle the media.

While serving as COO, she discovered that she had political ambitions and wanted to go into politics to better serve the community.

“My interest was mostly on the legislative side,” Vermillion said. “That probably would have been a better choice to go into considering what I do for a living. I probably could have had a great impact.”

She was elected to Ward 3 in June 2009 . Her greatest accomplishment, Vermillion said, was the renovation of Wells Park.

“I was shocked to see it looked the exact same 25 years later,” Vermillion said. “It had metal equipment and no shade structure. How can a child play on that in the middle of the summer?”

Vermillion, who credits the hard work of parks and recreation director Mary Ellen Donner, said they were able to update that area.

“We have one more renovation (of Wells Park),” Vermillion said. “I’ll probably come to that opening.”

Vermillion also was proud of implementing a pilot recycling program, which then stretched to other wards.

Even though she helped serve many residents living below median income, Vermillion said most of her time spent on the council was on planning decisions.

Some of Vermillion’s most frustrating moments serving stemmed from “inherited” problems such as the settlements for former city manager Mary Kay Peck, who was fired before Vermillion started, and former city attorney Elizabeth Quillin, who resigned during the summer after being arrested on drunken driving charges. Quillin’s contract was determined before Vermillion was elected.

Vermillion said her predecessor and the council before her should have let the new council members, herself and Councilwoman Debra March, along with newly elected Mayor Andy Hafen, decide the best course of action for terminating Peck and hiring Quillin .

“It is hard to explain to the public that you inherited these problems,” Vermillion said.

Vermillion abstained from voting on both those settlements.

At the Nov. 29 special meeting to pick a new city attorney, Josh Reid, Vermillion abstained again because she didn’t want to tie her replacement to her decision.

Balancing both has been difficult, to say the least, she said.

However, the community has acknowledged Vermillion, who has received numerous community awards .

“There has been a lot, and I should keep better track of them,” Vermillion said. “I hate going into an office and seeing a wall full of plaques.”

In the future, after her daughter has graduated from high school, Vermillion said she probably would run for office again.

“There is a high probability,” Vermillion said. “I would only run if I could serve under served populations.”

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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