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Ward 6 councilman positive about northwest Las Vegas growth

Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 6 Councilman Steve Ross has watched the city grow since he moved to the area in 1972.

He represents the far northwest and Centennial Hills — one of the fastest-growing areas of Las Vegas — which has doubled in population in the last six years.

Ross ran for office for the first time in spring 2005 and was re-elected in April 2009 and April 2013.

As the Ward 6 councilman, he serves as a member of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and the Nevada League of Cities & Municipalities and as an alternate for the Southern Nevada District Board of Health. Previously, he served as a commissioner on the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and the Regional Flood Control District board, as well as serving on the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority board, the Clark County Shooting Complex Advisory Committee, the Las Vegas Audit Oversight Committee, the Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Yucca Mountain Advisory Committee.

As Mayor Pro Tem, Ross worked with the College of Southern Nevada to identify land for a future campus to bring educational opportunities to youths and training for families. Other accomplishments include opening the Centennial Hills Active Adult Center and the Centennial Hills Library.

View recently sat down with Ross for a question-and-answer session.

You were first elected to the council in 2005. How did your political career get its start? What made you want to run?

I’ve always been politically active through my union. I’m a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 357. Years ago, I became the political action chairman for a couple of terms. Then I became the assistant business manager of my union. Through politics, I met a lot of political leaders at the time, so I got involved that way. Later, I became a member of the Clark County Democratic Central Committee, and I became a member of the State Democratic Central Committee. Soon after, I became the vice chairman of the Clark County Democratic Party.

You could call it my upbringing. I grew up in the Mormon church, so we’ve always had that lesson of serving others and serving the community — whether it was church activities or Boy Scout activities, I’ve always learned to serve others, and that’s part of who I am. I just pulled it right over into public service.

How have you seen the city change over the years?

When we moved here in 1972, the edge of town was Vegas Drive and Tonopah Highway. Since then, it’s changed dramatically. There was a period when I got elected in 2005 when Las Vegas was declared the fastest-growing city in the United States. We were looking at 5,000 to 7,000 people a month moving into the valley. Many of them were moving to Centennial Hills because of the growth that was happening in the northwest.

When I got elected, the economy was going well, there were jobs everywhere, unemployment rate was down, and construction was booming as well as housing. Then the economy tanked. We had a worldwide recession, and a lot of home builders went out of business, and a lot of businesses closed their doors — including my own business.

It was a very difficult time for families because people lost their jobs, they lost their homes, and they lost their dreams. It was devastating.

So we, as a city council office for Ward 6, had to work hard to try to maintain the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

Right now, we have a great project that’s going on — it’s probably the most significant project in Southern Nevada, in my opinion, certainly in the city of Las Vegas — and that’s Skye Canyon.

The projected total buildout will be 9,000 homes. There’s a gaming overlay district, commercial and retail sites, new schools and new parks. It’s a phenomenal project, so we’re working very closely with the developer, and that’s going to affect the growth of the northwest because the Sheep Mountain Parkway alignment may change as it connects with Kyle Canyon and U.S. 95.

What is the biggest issue that Ward 6 faces, and as Ward 6 councilman, what do you plan to do about the issue?

I think the biggest good issue is the Tule Springs National Monument. Tule Springs is a great opportunity for the city to grow and have eco-tourism. That’s huge for me. I think it’s huge for the entire valley to highlight the ice age and the mammals and animals that used to roam this valley because of the Las Vegas Wash. So that’s huge for me. Is it an issue? I don’t think it’s a bad issue. It’s a great issue.

The other issue that’s always been a priority for me has been job growth.

I’ve always been one to think the government needs to do all it can to help businesses grow because the government doesn’t create jobs, but businesses do.

We’ve streamlined the way the city does business. We have a development services center. We have a mutli-jurisdictional business license now, and many business-related things can be done online through the city’s website. I’ve been a part of that push for a long, long time, and we’re continuing to always better ourselves.

As you can tell, there are a lot of orange cones right here in this side of town, and we like that because behind every orange cone is a job.

What are some of the top concerns of Ward 6 residents?

It’s just depends on where the area is. I know you’re clearly aware of what’s happening over in Silverstone Ranch. Someone’s purchased a golf course, and the neighbors have a big question mark on what’s happening to their neighborhood.

Those concerns are different than, say, what’s happening up in Providence.

Providence is one of the fastest-growing communities in the country — certainly in Ward 6 — but there’s traffic, congestion and crime. None of those things ever go away.

It could be a barking dog or a loose chimpanzee down Ann Road. We have a mix of urban and rural, so we always have to deal with that border of, ‘I got my horses and chickens and cows,’ and ‘Well, I want to build a master plan community with private streets,’ so it’s always been a challenge, but I think I’ve met that challenge very well.

There have been a few critics, from people saying that you are not committed to protecting rural areas and the city is slowly but surely annexing many county properties. How would you respond to that?

Absolutely false, absolutely not true. I’ve always protected the rural areas, and I will always continue to protect the rural areas. It’s a delicate balance on how that happens, but it happens, and I will continue to do that. I don’t know where that criticism comes from because it’s unfounded.

We had a group here this morning that lives in the rural area up by Providence and was concerned about growth and development. There’s a genuine concern for it, and I believe in creating the right buffers to protect the rural area, like taking a look at street design and street lights and curves, gutters and sidewalks — those don’t belong in rural areas.

When I got elected, I lived in a rural area, and it had no improvements, and I had my horses, and my wife would never let me have chickens, which would really bother me — I wanted my own eggs, you know — so I had my own ranch, and I lived in one of those rural areas. The rural areas are very important for me to protect.

You were unanimously elected as mayor pro tem in April. How has that position changed your duties?

It’s changed a little bit. I’m now part of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority construction committee. The mayor felt that that responsibility with the committee was paramount as well, so she has replaced me with herself on the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission and Regional Flood Control District, which I’ve spent six years on. I’ve taken the mayor pro tem’s position to a completely different level. If she can’t be somewhere, of course, it falls upon my shoulders to represent the mayor’s office and the city of Las Vegas as well. It’s actually a golden opportunity for me, and I consider it a privilege to serve in that capacity.

Do you have any plans to run for mayor in the future?

The Nevada State Supreme Court won’t allow me to run for mayor because of a supreme court decision that came down last year when a Reno City Council person was running for mayor and another person was running for mayor. The state statute says if you have served on a city council for 12 years, then you are done. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Title I councilmember or mayor. If not for that, I would be delighted to run for mayor, absolutely.

I am currently running for Clark County Commission District B and have been since December.

What goals do you hope to accomplish for the remainder of your term?

The goals for this term have been the same. I want to help businesses grow and help families and communities maintain that quality of life in their neighborhood. I will continue to work with law enforcement officers to continue to promote public safety in our communities. I have the unique opportunity to work with the Nevada Department of Transportation because of the widening of U.S. 95 and then working with Clark County with the combination of the 215/U.S. 95 interchange, which is called the Centennial Bowl. That’s huge. I enjoy a great relationship with the development community, working with large developers and small developers to help them continue to make their dreams come true. The goals haven’t changed. The priorities have stayed the same, and we live them every single day, and we do them every single day.

I believe once I’m the county commissioner, I could do the same thing and work with the city of Las Vegas to make that a reality.

What are your visions for the future of Ward 6?

I’ve worked so hard for so many years for good growth, good planning, sustainable jobs and sustainable businesses, and that model has been a success for us even through the recession.

Centennial Hills was hit the worst because of the foreclosure crisis, but I think because of my pro-activeness in working every single day with city departments and the community in general, we’ve maintained a high level of that quality of life. I think that just continues every single day.

We wake up every day in my office, and I think of how could I help somebody today. How can I serve the constituents of not only Ward 6 but of the city of Las Vegas and anyone else who needs it?

Anything else you’d like residents to know?

Residents already know this, but people will call me on my cellphone, and I answer it. We make it a priority in my office that we return every phone call and every email — whether it’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter — but when people start cussing at me, I take a different attitude towards that. I got great staff, and they do a wonderful job for residents of Centennial Hills and representing me as mayor pro tem of the city of Las Vegas and me as city councilman for Ward 6.

I’m always out in the community, doing something. Residents know that. They know how approachable I am, whether I’m in Home Depot or the grocery store. We’re very responsive; we respond in a heartbeat. We get things done.

— To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email slopez@viewnews.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.

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