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County commission race pits two familiar candidates

With less than a month to the general election, two Nye County Commission candidates are readying themselves for the results.

Candidate John Koenig pulled no punches explaining the differences between him and opponent Harley Kulkin.

Both are vying for the District II seat currently occupied by Frank Carbone, who did not seek re-election. The areas includes Pahrump precincts 9, 21 and 32, which include the northern rural area of town.

Koenig, a Republican, suggested he would be more fiscally responsible than his Democratic opponent.

Koenig questioned Kulkin’s leadership abilities when the Democrat was chairman of the now defunct Pahrump Town Board. During that period, the board was disbanded by voters and county commissioners.

Koenig suggested that Kulkin bears some responsibility for the board’s demise.

“He is still in favor of incorporation and he wants the town board back, but the voters do not,” he said. “He also wants to build ‘Harley World’. Harley and the rest of the town board spent upward of $300,000 just for a report. The voters and commissioners didn’t like that and sent him a message.”

Koenig was referring to a proposal between the town of Pahrump and Los Angeles-based Contour Entertainment for a multi-phase entertainment and tourist destination known as “Adventure Springs.”

The town spent more than $289,000 in areas such as build-out concepts and financial analysis for the project. For their effort, the town received artist’s renderings and reports about the scope and feasibility of Adventure Springs.

Additionally, officials with Contour suggested the town should incorporate due to the discord with the county.

“I am not in favor of incorporation even though there are things that we gain by incorporation,” he said. “If you read the reports that were done years ago, they show that taxes go up. I don’t believe there are enough people in Pahrump who want incorporation. You can’t burden them with the extra costs.”

Koenig also provided his thoughts on how the town board functioned when Kulkin was a member and then chairman.

“If you ever attended the town board meetings, they would last five to six hours and they were contentious as hell,” he said. “The town board meetings now are run by the commissioners acting as the town board. The commissioners take five to 10 minutes for a discussion on things that concern the town of Pahrump.”

Experience and a firm grasp of the issues, Koenig said, are very important to handling the job of a county commissioner.

He has served as chairman of the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission, as well as being a member of the Nye County Regional Transportation Commission.

“I have seen a lot of people go into other governmental seats who have never been to a meeting and it takes forever to bring them up to speed,” he said. “I can walk in there, sit down and be the chairman on day one if that’s what everybody wanted. It’s not going to happen, but I could run those meetings as well as they do.”

Koenig defeated four challengers in the GOP primary, taking 56 percent of the vote, while Kulkin was the only Democrat that registered to run.

Kulkin on the other hand, said if elected next month, he will not take the $27,000 salary or benefits.

“I will do it absolutely free and at no cost to the county,” he said.

Kulkin said his first order of business will focus on economic development in Pahrump and Nye County.

Upon moving to the area 23 years ago, he saw what he termed “tremendous potential.”

“I’m still waiting to see that,” he said. “I can’t believe that Nye County is the poorest county in Nevada when it shouldn’t be. We have mining and we collect the taxes.”

Kulkin also noted that he believes, unlike his opponent, that incorporation would be a huge benefit to the town of Pahrump, but many people are not aware of what incorporation would look like.

“Many people in our town have all these ideas but they are confused about what it really means,” he said. “The reality is everything within the borders of the town of Pahrump, the town will run it and that’s all.”

Kulkin said he would push to re-establish the Pahrump Town Board.

He said the county did the community a disservice after rejecting a project that he believes would have bolstered the infrastructure within the community.

“When the town board was still in effect, the county turned down a $4.5 million dollar, free sewage plant,” he said. “The town was only responsible for the parks, the cemetery, and the ambulance service. I’ve never heard anyone complain about those things.”

Kulkin also said that the county’s finances need to be addressed. He spoke about the importance of generating more income to pay for additional infrastructure and services.

“(The county) don’t seem to understand that government is a business and they should be creating assets before they fund liabilities,” he said. “With gold mining, and PETT money (Payment Equal To Taxes), and all the things that this county has brought in, it doesn’t make any sense that we are the poorest county in the state of Nevada. It is due to an incredible amount of incompetence.”

Attracting tourism to the area was another issue Kulkin addressed.

“I go out to Vegas once a week, and I see tour bus after tour bus of people coming through our town, but what do they stop for?” he questioned. “They go to the bathroom, get some munchies and they go elsewhere. We need to create something that would attract those tourists and keep them here. This should be their destination.”

When asked about the issue of recreational use of marijuana in Nevada, Kulkin contrasted the effects of pot versus alcohol. He noted that he’s never taken illicit drugs at any time in his life.

“I think that pot is not as dangerous as alcohol,” he said. “I heard of people getting drunk and beating the hell out of someone, but I’ve never heard of somebody on pot beating the hell out of somebody.”

Kulkin, now a businessman, ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor two years ago.

The Koenig/Kulkin race is the sole contested commission run on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Commissioners Lorinda Wichman and Donna Cox will not face challengers come November, due to their respective primary victories in June.

About the Nye County Commission

Five Nye County commissioners are elected as policy makers for all areas of the county. They approve the county’s budget. The County Commission serves as county Highway Commission Board, county Liquor and Gaming Board, the governing body of Unincorporated Town of Pahrump, and Northern Nye County Hospital District Board, to name a few.

Annual salary: $27,000

Term: four years

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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