Jacobs: Getting to know Tonopah’s newest Town Board member

Aug. 16 is one day Jerry Elliston won’t forget, especially this year.

First, Elliston turned 63 that day. By late morning, Nye County commissioners had appointed him to a vacancy on the Tonopah Town Board.

Then, Elliston, who was working at the Tonopah Test Range during the commissioners’ meeting, got a phone call and an email notifying him that he had been selected over four other applicants.

By just before 5 p.m. that day, he made it from the site to the Nye County Clerk’s Office off Radar Road in Tonopah to be sworn into office.

By dinnertime on that whirlwind day, Elliston officially was the newest member of the five-member Tonopah Town Board.

“It happened real quick,” he said, recalling the events that day.

“The test site, it’s a long way out there …I said I can be there at five minutes to five. She (a clerk’s office official) said she could wait for me, so I got sworn in.”

Wide-ranging experience

A 36-year employee at the Tonopah Test Range, Elliston has served as a manager there the past 23 years.

“There’s a customer out there that has an organization, a bunch of buildings, and we maintain that for them,” said Elliston, who works for Navarro, a contractor to Sandia National Laboratories at the site.

His experience covers a wide range of areas, including safety, training, operations, utilities and management.

“It’s almost like a small city,” he said. “You have all the infrastructure, all the utilities. I have done that for a lot of years.”

Elliston fills the town board seat vacated by Doug Farinholt, who cited health reasons in a June 28 resignation letter.

Elliston is to fill the remainder of a term that runs until January 2019. The position is unpaid.

“I just feel I can use my experience, the things I have learned over the years, to help Tonopah,” Elliston said. “It’s maybe time to step up and see if I can help out.”

“I haven’t been involved in politics and the community. So I just felt that maybe it’s time that I just do that,” he said.

Longtime Tonopah resident

A 36-year Tonopah resident, Elliston is the father of two adult children and three grandchildren.

“This has been my home for a long time,” Elliston said of Tonopah. “So this has been a good place to live. If I can make Tonopah better or help out, maybe it’s time to do it.”

Prior to moving to Tonopah, Elliston had lived in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, “all over the West,” he said.

“I went right to the test site and just stayed there. I have been there ever since I got here. I have had one job out there.”

The board

Elliston was chosen over four other applicants for the town board position that had been vacant seven weeks. On the town board, he joins Chairman Duane Downing, Vice Chairman Tom Seley, Clerk Janet Hatch and member Don Kaminski.

“I am glad I got appointed, I look forward to this,” Elliston said at his first meeting, Aug. 24 in the Tonopah Convention Center. “I have a lot to learn. I’m a details person. I do like to know things.”

He said there’s “a lot about the town that I don’t know.”

“So I will be going around and asking questions and seeing things. I just want to understand what the town does, the town board and stuff. I do appreciate the appointment, and I hope I can do a good job.”

Tasks ahead

What are the biggest challenges for Tonopah?

“I think obviously the remoteness, and then the financial is always a concern nowadays,” Elliston responded in the interview. “Everybody is worried about money and budgets and stuff.”

“And I think staffing is always an issue,” he added. “For me it is, and I suspect with the town, getting qualified people to do the jobs and do the work, services. I think those are the biggest issues.”

He also agrees that the hospital issue is pressing with the closure of Nye Regional Medical Center in August 2015.

“The hospital is obviously a big concern,” Elliston said. “Especially as you get older, hospitals become more important and doctors.”

“For me it is a concern. Probably the biggest concern and emergency services, too. The problem (staffing shortages and finances) we have in emergency services needs to get resolved. The rest of it we’ll just have to figure out as I get there.”

Contact reporter David Jacobs at djacobs@tonopahtimes.com