By Mark Waite
Donna Cox, president of the Concerned Citizens for a Safe Community, who won election to the Nye County commission District 3 seat Tuesday, invited the public to give their input and advocated more transparency on the board.
She will be the second new face to take a seat on the commission, along with Frank Carbone, who upset two-term incumbent Gary Hollis in District 2.
Cox said she will be taking a trip to Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. with her husband Don Cox on their first vacation in a few years, since they embarked on a crusade in 2008 against the new federal detention center. Though the Nevada Southern Detention Center has been opened for two years, the CCSC and Cox still have a lawsuit against the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee pending.
“I’m very easy, I’m compatible, I get along with people the majority of the time. My goal is to accomplish things and you can’t accomplish things if you have a fight around every corner,” Cox said.
Cox said she ran more out of frustration after watching meetings either live or on the Internet. But though she often seems more focused on town board issues, she ran for the county commission.
“We need to make change; you’re not going to make change on the town board, or on the town advisory board,” Cox said.
Cox was on the East Las Vegas advisory board for 12 years until she moved to Pahrump in 1988. She will be the second Commissioner Cox, he daughter-in-law, Patricia Cox, served one term on the county commission from 2002 to 2006 but chose not to run again.
“I don’t feel I won this alone,” Cox said. “I did this for the people more than myself. I have other things I can do in life.”
“I want everybody to come together and bring their ideas, bring their thoughts, bring their complaints and I want to work with them. That’s what my job is going to be based around is the people,” she said.
She wants to see improvements on Calvada Boulevard, development on Highway 160, construction of a Kellogg Road Park, opening a couple of satellite libraries, starting a beautification committee and seeing the fairgrounds developed but not the Adventure Springs project.
“Part of the problem is there’s no transparency, they do things and they don’t explain it to people and you ask questions and they don’t answer you. That has to stop,” Cox said of the present county commission.
Cox plans to ask county commissioners today about moving on converting the Pahrump town board to advisory board status now.
“According to the law as soon as it’s voted in it becomes a town advisory board,” Cox said. “They cannot be town board members if there is no town board. So they have to be town advisory members which is fine, they will not have control of the money. They can still make some decisions that they can bring to commissioners for approval.”
Cox was a major proponent of ballot question No. 2 which narrowly passed Tuesday.
“This was not something the citizens or myself wanted to do. This is something they brought about and it was because of Town Manager Bill Kohbarger and his attitude and wanting to consolidate and save money. I figure right off the top there’s about $1 million savings because we won’t be paying the town manager any more, we won’t be paying the town attorneys. There will be some town staff,” Cox said.
“Everybody’s yelling for a volunteer fire department. Right now they’re highly paid because they’re union. I don’t know how that’s going to affect them one way or another,” she said.
Cox said she won’t change once seated up on the dias, like Harley Kulkin, a local activist who mounted a few recall campaigns, confronted officials at meetings, but changed after he was elected to the Pahrump town board in 2010.
“There’s something called the art of compromise which Harley will not do,” Cox said. “The only reason he got elected was because he came to CCSC, he got involved and saw what our wishes were and he went along with our platform until he got elected.”
It’s unclear how the board of county commissioners will work together with the newly-scrambled lineup.
Cox said she doesn’t know where County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen stands much of the time. She will sit with County Commissioner Butch Borasky, after being active in a recall effort against him in 2009, which was tossed out after the Nevada Secretary of State allowed 76 people to withdraw their signatures on the petition.
“As far as Borasky goes, the ball’s in his court. He can do whatever he wants. He’s put out the word he’s not going to run again if I get elected. If he has that attitude that’s fine,” Cox said.
“I’m not going to hold a grudge on that, especially if I’m going to be working with a person,” Borasky said. “I’ve had to work with difficult people before. I just have to do my best to do my job and hopefully everybody else will do the same. Being a commissioner is a rather scary thing to have to deal with at times. You never know what the other people are thinking.”
Without identifying any one of the two newly elected commissioners, Borasky said, “I believe one individual has a set agenda and the other one’s ready to sit down and work and do business.”
County Commissioner Joni Eastley, who will leave office due to term limits at the end of the year, said, “looking in the window is not the same as sitting at the table.”
Eastley gave this advice: “under- promise and overdeliver.” She offered to help the new county commissioners work through issues and plans to be on a Nevada Association of Counties emeritus board that includes former officials.
“There are laws that apply to them and how they conduct their business, the depth of which they’re probably not aware of yet. So for any incoming county commissioner to think they have any power, they have none. The staff doesn’t work for them, the other elected officials don’t work for them. They don’t have any power as individuals, the only power they obtain will be by and from the efforts of others,” Eastley said.
“For Donna, being the president of CCSC is not going to be similar in any regard whatsoever to being a county commissioner,” she said.
Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said it’s sad to see her colleagues move out of the way and new people come in. “On the other hand, with a vision for the future, I am excited about new ideas coming to the board and the new personalities on the board will change the entire dynamics,” Wichman said.
She already called Carbone and Cox to congratulate them and said she had a lengthy conversation with each one of them.
In an apparent reference to the CCSC, Wichman said, “it’ll also mean representation from a group that maybe we don’t hear everything from.”
Cox defeated Ken Searles by 108 votes, a pharmacist at Desert View Hospital who didn’t campaign much due to his job,
“All I can say is Pahrump has chosen and we go on from there,” Searles said. “Anybody who’s running obviously thinks they’re going to be victorious so in that context I guess surprised is an accurate word.”
“I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t do enough, in hindsight I could’ve done this, I could’ve done that,” he said. “People said I could’ve campaigned more but I was called back to the hospital. It’s kind of hard to do this. She put out quite a few more signs, they were larger. I had resources I could’ve called on.”
When it comes to the job Commissioner Cox will do, Searles said, “my conversations with people who were on the commission and other people in the community have reservations, that’s the nicest way of putting it. They don’t know how well she’s going to work with the board. They don’t know how successful they’re going to be with her on there and some of her past history may preclude them from working close together.”
Cox parked her home on Hacienda Street to run in the district four commissioner’s race against Borasky two years ago, but moved it a year and a half ago to property owned by Karen Thomas, owner of Pahrump Rentals at 110 Emery St. next to CCSC headquarters. That allowed her to be in district three, Don and Donna Cox are also Neighborhood Watch volunteers.
A judge ruled in Kulkin’s favor on a residency complaint in 2010, when he moved his trailer to a mobile home park on Tough Boy Road to run against Commissioner Gary Hollis. Cox said her situation is different.
“With Harley he intentionally went and bought a trailer and moved it over there and had a house. I live full-time in my motor home, it’s my only home and I love it,” Cox said.
She plans to rent a place now that she won election.
The CCSC had split results in Tuesday’s election. Their attorney, Nancy Lord, lost the Fifth District Judge race by a large margin to gubernatorial appointee Kimberly Wanker and Pahrump Justice of the Peace Louis De Canio lost by almost a similar two-to-one margin to former Nye County Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Ron Kent.
On the other hand, besides Cox’s victory on the county commission they saw Amy Riches win a seat on the town board and the passage of ballot question No. 2.
“Overall we got the most important issues taken care of and that was Amy of course being on the town board, I would’ve liked to have seen Frank Maurizio do better. But we have to work with who we end up with. I was ecstatic about question two passing, of course I was the big promoter of that. Yesterday there were a lot of smiles on people’s faces and I haven’t seen that in a long time,” Cox said.
“As far as Frank Carbone goes, that’s another thing I was ecstatic about. I didn’t want to go in there alone and I didn’t want him to go in there alone,” Cox said. “We think a lot alike. Although I haven’t known Frank long, I think he’s one of the most honest people I’ve met. We’re on the same track.”