Interview – Virgil Arellano, Incumbent Candidate Lyon County Commissioner District 5
LYON COUNTY COMMISSIONER, DISTRICT 5 – VIRGIL ARELLANO, INCUMBENT
These interviews are being posted on NewsDesk by Nancy Dallas (www.ndbynd.com). Reposting of any interview by interested parties must include the disclaimer the interview was originally posted in this publication. Questions or comments may be directed to Nancy Dallas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-847-0129.
There are four Republican candidates in this race. The candidate receiving the most votes in the Primary will advance to the General Election. Edward Lupori and Clifford Thompson did not reply to the interview.
District 5 encompasses the southern portion of Lyon County, including Smith Valley and the Mason Valley. A commissioner candidate must live within the boundaries of their district, but are voted upon countywide.
1. Give a brief summation of your professional and political background.
I am a third generation Nevadan, born and raised in Reno. I am a retired firefighter and a small business owner. Although my background was in agriculture, including veterinary studies and ranch management, most of my adult life has been dedicated to public and community service. I also pursued college studies in political science, management, government, philosophy and psychology. I have always been a registered Republican. I was a delegate to the 2008 and 2010 Nevada State Republican Conventions.
I served as a Lyon County Planning Commissioner for four years prior to my being elected County Commissioner in November of 2010. I currently serve on the following committees as a liaison or representative for Lyon County and its citizens:
• Nevada State Land Use and Planning Advisory Council (Current Chairman)
• Nevada Lands Management Task Force (As created by AB227)
• Nevada Association of Counties Public Lands and Natural Resources
• Walker River Irrigation District
• Mason Valley Conservation District
• Smith Valley Conservation District
• Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest Resource Advisory Committee
• Northern Nevada Development Authority Agriculture Committee (Founding Member)
• BLM Cooperating Agency Representative for Lyon County
• South Lyon Medical Center Governing Board 2010 to present
• Lyon County Republican Central Committee
• Lyon County Republican Womens Committee (associate member)
• Fernley Republican Womens Committee (associate member)
2. Why are you running for this position?
To finish the job I started and fulfill the pledge I made to the residents of Lyon County. In 2010 when I was running for office I asked many residents from throughout Lyon County what their concerns and issues were. From those comments and concerns I developed “our” platform and I pledged to work hard towards the following items:
• Revitalize our economy, facilitate job growth and support new business.
• Accountability and responsible management of our tax dollars.
• Support our agricultural industry.
• Encourage balanced growth between residential, commercial and industrial projects.
• Increase local government accountability and transparency.
• Support and protect our public lands for multiple uses.
For the first time since 2008 Lyon County is “in the black.” We have made tremendous progress with the items listed above, but there is still much work to do. That is where experience and leadership comes into play. It is imperative that we use the lessons learned from the past in going forward, as well as identifying areas of concern before they become critical issues as our economy improves. As I mentioned, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do and it is my intent with the support of Lyon County residents to continue the work and finish the job I started. That’s who and what I am – a hard worker . The voters elected me to do a job and placed their faith and trust in me to work for them and achieve successful results for the short, mid and long-term future of our county.
3. What makes you more qualified to serve in this position than your opponents?
With all due respect to my opponents, my experience, hard work, and proven leadership through some very challenging times as your Lyon County Commissioner from District Five, qualifies me to serve another term.
My experience and involvement in balancing three successive county budgets with revenue deficits was the culmination of hard work and collaboration by our County’s elected officials, departments, citizen advisory boards, employees and a wide range of other stakeholders. Over the past three years, and faced with revenue deficits, Lyon County took difficult steps to insure that we continued to provide services to our residents. Eliminating positions was extremely difficult. With reduced spending as well as reorganization in several departments, these difficult steps allowed us to basically survive and function at a bare bones minimum.
In 2011, for the first time ever in Lyon County we undertook developing a strategic plan for the county. The strategic plan was not only developed to assist and guide us through a depressed economy but also to address and plan for the future. This plan assists with identifying and developing solutions in order to facilitate economic growth. It also addresses areas of concerns and issues throughout the county, such as those related to public lands and natural resources, as well as supporting existing businesses and industries, maintaining infrastructure and roads in a downturned economy. How do we measure or gauge if the strategic plan is working or has worked? Just take a look at the 2014/15 budget. We are in the black this budget year we finally see signs that our economy is improving and that revenues are increasing. To insure that our economy continues to improve we must apply the lessons learned from the hard times, and focus on using those lessons for long term financial health. We must develop, follow and adhere to disciplined financial policies and practices.
Leadership is not necessarily standing up in front of a group and saying “Follow me!” Individual leadership begins with listening and understanding the situation or problem. Effective, efficient leaders ask questions, gather information, utilize available resources, and make decisions that can be managed, monitored and measured for success. Leadership includes admitting mistakes and adjusting the plan or decision to achieve success. Recognizing one’s own leadership skills and management styles is crucial in building working relationships with others in order to find and implement solutions, build consensus and develop compromise when necessary. Dynamic leaders are always open to new ideas and methods to improve situations as well as managing problems. Responsible leaders take the initiative and welcome responsibility and accountability .I have used these leadership skills on behalf of Lyon County and its residents since taking office in January of 2011.
I will share one brief example of where I applied my leadership skills. The Lyon County Public Lands Policy that had been adopted in 1993 had not been reviewed or updated for 19 years. I was aware that there were many new policies and actions being undertaken by federal agencies in the management and administration of public lands within Lyon County. My concern was with potential threats to multiple users and historical usage of our public lands. Additionally with a depressed economy, actions by federal agencies could have a negative impact on economic revenues generated from public lands critical to Lyon County. I stepped up to the plate and volunteered to draft a new public lands policy. Since the county did not have funds to pay for a consultant to develop this policy and by me drafting the policy, I saved the taxpayers fifty to seventy thousand dollars. Eventually, with all the current issues we face regarding public lands, I believe that funding would have needed to be identified and appropriated.
In drafting the public lands policy I reached out to several counties, their commissioners, their staff as well as natural resource consultants. Our Lyon County Public Lands Advisory Management Board as well as our county planning staff also played a significant role in developing and reviewing the draft policy.
The relationships I had built during this process have been valuable in serving our county and residents. Additionally I incorporated an annual review for the policy so that it can be updated every year or as need be. This is the kind of leadership I have brought to Lyon County as a commissioner; Recognizing the potential problem and its impacts, identifying the solution, asking questions, listening, utilizing available resources, and taking the initiative and responsibility to accomplish the task or solution and achieve a positive result. I am your County Commissioner from District Five and the candidate with Qualified Proven Experienced Leadership!
4. What do you expect to spend on this campaign? Do you intend to spend your own money? To what degree?
I loaned funds from my own personal account to my campaign account to get started. Before filing for the primary election I budgeted $7500.00 based on potential contributions, as well as what I raised and spent during the 2010 primary. As of April 23, 2014 I have spent $ 5316.83. With three opponents in the primary, campaign costs will increase. The majority of my campaign funds are coming from contributions.
5. A. What do you see as the three most important issues of concern in Lyon County?
Water, water, and water! Seriously, there are many issues that are of critical importance and concern. These are three current, critical and important issues of concern in Lyon County that I am currently working on that demand immediate attention:
• Our Economy,
• Public Lands, and
5. B. Please explain your proposals to resolve these concerns.
My proposals to resolve these concerns are underway. Here are some current examples.
• THE ECONOMY:
The Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act ( Pumpkin Hollow Copper Mine )will bring much needed jobs to Lyon County. I was directly involved in the development of this legislation. The bill has been passed out of both House and Senate Committees and is waiting for floor action in both houses. Currently, local citizens as well as local leadership and I are reaching out to House Leadership in support of our Nevada Congressional Delegation for immediate action and passage of this legislation. Passage of the bill will create over 2500 jobs, implement educational initiatives, and generate much significant long term revenues for our county which also benefit our schools, fire districts and local hospital district.
Agriculture is critical to our counties economic health. Along with mining it is part of our states heritage. Agriculture is our states third largest industry. Lyon County leads the state in revenues generated from crops and livestock production. In the summer of 2012, Mason and Smith Valleys experienced unprecedented power outages. Not only did these outages affect residential and commercial customers but our agricultural industry was severely affected. The problem was not something new but a chronic issue. After receiving many complaints within a one week period, I facilitated a meeting between local leadership and NVEnergy. Agriculture was also represented at that meeting which was held in July of 2012. I agendized and outlined the issues and presented copies of complaints to NVEnergy. From that meeting NVEnergy made several presentations to the public during Board of Commissioner Meetings. Citizens also became involved by taking their concerns to the public utilities commission. In December of 2013, NVEnergy came to the Lyon County Board of Commissioners and presented their plans for the construction of a new substation in Smith Valley and a complete rebuild of the Bridge Street substation in Yerington. This will greatly assist with having reliable power delivery for the long term. In March of 2014, knowing that there would be a significant amount of water being pumped by our ag producers during this drought, I arranged for a tour of Lyon County with the new president of NVEnergy. I wanted to emphasize the importance of having reliable power delivery. I was pleased with the outcome of the tour and that we had the opportunity to visit with local ag producers to address their issues. I will continue to work on this issue and insure that long term solutions are implemented in a timely manner.
• PUBLIC LANDS:
I currently serve on three committees dealing with public lands issues. (See number one)
Our historical multiple usage on public lands is currently threatened by federal agencies and special interest groups. Whether its grazing, mining, recreation or public access, all of these factors play a part in our economy, not only at the county, level but at the state level as well. Currently I am working with our county manager per our public lands policy to address concerns and submit comments on the BLM Resource Management Plan as to impacts on our county and citizens. The final plan will be released this fall for public review and comment.
The proposed listing of sage grouse species will have a dreadful economic effect on our county and state. I continue to work on the local Bi-State Sage Grouse issue to prevent any listing. Currently I am working with other county leaders to draft a statewide joint county resolution in support of stakeholders and the Governors Sagebrush Eco-System Council regarding the sage grouse issue at the local and state levels.
The Nevada Lands Management Task Force has been meeting since June of 2013. I have been actively engaged as Lyon County’s representative. The report to the State Legislative Committee is almost complete and undergoing minor language changes. The transfer of public lands to the state of Nevada will address many issues and give us long term solutions and opportunities to insure our state’s economic growth as well as securing and enhancing historical multiple usage of our public lands for Nevadans. (See number 13
Without water we have no economy. Whether its agriculture, commercial, residential, industrial or recreation, water is critical. In the next year I will be reviewing the natural resources component in our master plan. We have measures in place to address water sources for residential, commercial and industrial development but we need to address how to support water resources in other areas. With a new natural resources policy we can address watershed issues, support agriculture and recreational uses. If the transfer of public lands to the state of Nevada occurs, the natural resource policy as well as the public lands policy will be key elements of the master plan. The county master plan will be the guiding document in administering the county’s interests in regards to state managed public lands.
Regardless of the outcome of the public lands transfer, I will be reaching out to local stakeholders and working with local and state leadership to develop a natural resources policy to address water issues.
6. Lyon County’s tentative budget was recently approved. As the county’s revenue projections slowly improve, what will be your spending priorities in the coming years?
• Obviously road maintenance and improvements is a priority, along with maintaining current buildings and grounds.
• Advancing technology is critical in order to streamline county operations and reduce costs to the taxpayers.
• Complete the implementation of community plans within the master plan.
• Reducing and paying off county debt is also a priority.
• Continue to look at privatization and outsourcing. We have made strides in centralizing services and eliminating rents and leases for facilities. This should continue to be in the forefront.
• More importantly, rather than spending money, I would pursue examining property taxes and sales tax for tiered reductions.
• I would also reassess business license fees and look at reducing those as well. I do not believe in the old adage “Once a tax is imposed, it never goes away” Our taxpayers deserve a break in coming out of our economic recession.
• With a new sheriff taking office in 2015, public safety will be very important. We will have to wait and see what the new sheriffs plans are for providing services within the public safety budget.
• Increased staffing should be based on absolute necessity based on increased revenues and potential improvement or sustainability of providing services.
7. Define your position in regards to following the guidelines as stated within the land use master plan.
Without guidelines it’s a free for all. We could just do away with the planning commission and planning staff when guidelines, policies and objectives within the master plan aren’t followed or adhered to. How can you have desirable intelligent well balanced growth if policies and guidelines within the master plan are not adhered to? During the strategic planning process we identified that the master plan was critical in growing our economy for the long term. If we are serious about attracting investors to Lyon County, whether its residential, commercial or industrial, I offer that there is a reasonable expectation for future investors as well as existing property owners that the existing master plan would be adhered to.
8. Do you have any opinions in regards to the privatization of particular aspects of County operations?
I support privatization and outsourcing, based on the type of service and the cost. I would not support any measures that would negatively impact customer service and interaction during regular business hours. I would be hesitant to privatize certain aspects of public works. For example, repair crews.
Our existing public works staff can go to work fixing a broken water line almost immediately 24/7. With a private contractor we would be at their mercy, especially on weekends and holidays.
9. The maintenance of Lyon County roads is a perpetual source of concern. What ideas could you offer to help resolve/improve these issues?
We are implementing some outsourcing in regards to crack sealing and chip sealing throughout the county. Partnerships with the cities of Yerington and Fernley should not be overlooked. Time will tell as far as cost savings and effectiveness. We have approximately 540 miles of roads that are maintained by Lyon County. Public works is doing a tremendous job with current staff and equipment. As far as specific ideas….continue to pursue state and federal funding in the form of grants. Obviously the solution would be the passage of the Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act. (Nevada Copper Project) With revenues to Lyon County from net proceeds averaging 10-15 million dollars a year for approximately 20 years we could make some significant strides for the long term with maintaining and improving roads.
10. The State Legislature has found innovative ways to circumvent the state law banning the passing down of unfunded mandates to local governing entities. What is your position in regards to using such actions to fund state needs?
I am adamantly opposed to unfunded mandates. We had approximately $700,000 dollars in unfunded mandates come down at us from the state during the 2011/2012 budget. Those unfunded mandates are still in place and must be funded annually. It was not reasonable for the state to burden a county with a significant depressed economy with additional costs in order to develop a state budget.
11. What, if anything, do you think could be done to offer greater transparency within Lyon County government?
I believe we have improved as far as having a transparent county government. It is better than what it has been in the past. Is there room for improvement? Yes! When we reach the time and point where we have a steady reliable increasing revenue stream, I would like to see live webcasts available in the mid to long-term. As technology improves and fiber optics become more available, perhaps we could record video and have those available on the county website for designated periods of time.
12. With annual approval by Congress required, the Federal government pays state and local governments for the public lands (exempt from local taxation) within their jurisdiction (P.I.L.T.). Approximately 87-percent of Nevada is owned by Federal entities. Define your position in regards to states & local entities taking control of (Federal government relinquishing ownership to) all or a portion of these lands.
I represent Lyon County on the Nevada Lands Management Task Force as created by AB227 during the last session of the state legislature. We have been holding meetings since June of 2013. The committee is tasked with looking at the transfer of federally managed and administered lands to the State of Nevada. PILT funding to states is approximately $425 million. Nevada’s share is $23 million, with $1.9 million going to Lyon County. PILT Funding will be addressed at our next Task Force Meeting on April 25, 2014.
There are so many dynamics in play that addressing all of them would overload your website Nancy!
I do support the transfer of certain public lands to the state of Nevada. At the same time, at our last meeting we took action and identified lands we would not want designated for transfer to the state. They include the following:
• Current Congressionally designated wilderness areas
• National Conservation Areas
• Lands currently administered by:
• Department of Energy
• Department of Defense
• Department of Interior – Bureau of Indian Affairs
• Department of the Interior – U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
• Department of the Interior – National Park Service
We are getting very close to finalizing the economic study/report of transferring federally managed public lands to the state and drafting our final report to the State Legislative Committee on Public Lands. Because of the depth and volume of our work here is the link that residents can use to follow our activities and progress.
13. It appears that millions of acres of Nevada lands are destined to have the sage grouse (among other species) listed as a protected species. What is your position in regards to this issue? Explain.
I am opposed to the listing of threatened or endangered species in regards to the Bi-State and Greater Sage Grouse populations. I spent countless hours reviewing the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and the proposed federal rule in regards to the Bi-State sage grouse population here in Lyon County. The federal agencies studies and findings are flawed and are based on prejudicial science. They failed to recognize predatory threats to the species, but yet they admit the populations of the main predator, ravens, have increased. Their plan for habitat improvement, namely fuel reduction, is minimal and the federal agencies will not commit to funding fuel reduction.
This is nothing but a land and watershed grab by Federal agencies and special interest groups to restrict and or eliminate multiple uses on public lands, such as grazing, recreation and mining. Have the sage grouse numbers decreased in our area…yes. Have numbers increased in other areas …yes. Lyon County is fully aware of this issue.
I worked with a consultant from October of 2013 through December 2013 in developing our official comments for submission in regards to the DEIS and the Proposed Federal Rule for listing. At the same time we were also developing comments for the BLM Resource Management Plan. Isn’t it ironic how the federal agencies hit us with three comment periods on three different issues at the same time? I was also relieved that we had a new public lands policy to work from and reference.
Our local working groups and conservation groups have done an outstanding job of habitat improvement here locally. I have attended statewide meetings in regards to the sage grouse. As the new chair of the Nevada State Lands Use Planning Advisory Council, my first order of business was to seek approval from the committee to draft a statewide joint county resolution in regards to opposing any listing of sage grouse. This was approved and I will be drafting the resolution in support of the Governor’s task force dealing with the sage grouse.
14. Define your position on fracking and possible use of this technology in Lyon County.
I support the development and utilization of our natural resources for economic growth. Of course, sound conservation plans must be in place. Fracking requires a substantial amount of water. With the current drought, and significant amounts of water being pumped for agriculture, I would have serious concerns about fracking in those areas. I would oppose anything that would have potential negative impacts on our existing water tables and wells for all users.
I do support full energy independence for our country, but that may still be many years away. Currently, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and the Nevada Division of Minerals are drafting rules and regulations in regards to fracking. I would like to see those regulations first before making any decision or taking a position. Of course any fracking project proposed in Lyon County should go through an extensive public hearing process. Finally, if the one or both of the sage grouse species gets listed I would venture to say that fracking will be a moot point.
15. If there is any issue that you are concerned about that has not been addressed in this interview, this is your opportunity to address it:
I would just like to express that it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of Lyon County since taking office in January of 2011. Now more than ever they deserve hardworking experienced leadership in moving forward. We have hopefully put the difficult times behind us and we finally see signs of economic recovery. I will continue to work hard ! I believe a county’s prosperity is measured by the quality of peoples’ lives and the success of local business and industries. State and local government must apply the lessons learned from hard times to facilitate and build a prosperous economy for the long term. By working together we can achieve and secure a prosperous future and make a positive difference for all of us working and living in Lyon County. Thank you Lyon County residents for the support and opportunity to work for you and Thank You Nancy Dallas for allowing me to opportunity to share my views on Newsdesk.