Facing tight budgets, cracking streets and long-term public improvements, four candidates are vying for two seats on the Gardnerville Town Board.
Each position is a four-year term. One candidate, 70-year-old Lloyd Higuera, is running for the seat he was appointed to in March, after board member Robin Bernhard resigned his post for a job in Las Vegas.
"I've really enjoyed my time on the board," said Higuera. "I like the level of government the town affords. You can get things done. I'm trying to do what's best for the town."
Higuera has lived on Cottonwood Street for 27 years. He's currently the manager of Douglas County Community Access Television, and he owned and operated a local radio station, KGVM, for 18 years before selling it in 2004.
"I think the main thing is to maintain the quality of life for residents of Gardnerville," he said. "We have a great little town."
Higuera pointed to a number of ongoing projects in which he's engaged, including the Martin Slough trail that will link Gardnerville to Minden, figuring out new landscaping along Toler Lane, fixing cracks in Chichester streets, establishing more parking and safer crosswalks downtown, and eventually opening the Hellwinkel barn to community functions.
"I get a lot of positive feedback when I'm out and about campaigning," he said. "People would like to maintain their quality of life and the town's fiscal responsibility. How do we spend money in a way that does the most good for the people of this town?"
Higuera said he's a strong of proponent of Main Street Gardnerville, the nonprofit organization focused on downtown revitalization.
"We can't have a community without a strong business community to back it up. Main Street does a great job and should continue," he said. "I also like that they're preserving the town's history and keeping that small-town feel."
An increasingly pinched budget, though, will be the town's biggest challenge moving forward, he said.
"With the fiscal crunch, it becomes a matter of prioritizing," he said.
Higuera prides himself on being accessible. He said if any residents have concerns, they should not hesitate to share them with someone on the board.
"I do enjoy the work and do appreciate input from the community," he said. "I'm in the phone book and easy to find."
Mary Wenner, 54, has lived in Chichester Estates for 12 years and in Gardnerville for 28 years.
For the last 22 years, she has worked as Douglas County deputy treasurer.
"I've been thinking about running for a couple of years," she said.
As a bicyclist, she said that fixing cracks in Chichester asphalt became a major driver of her activism.
"They (the cracks) were getting kind of big, and I'd go down to the board meeting and mention the fact," she said.
Wenner is also interested in building more walking and biking trails.
"Maybe out to the community college," she said. "I would like the towns of Minden and Gardnerville working together to save taxpayers money on equipment."
Like Higuera, Wenner believes budgeting will be the big issue in the next four years.
"We have to watch what we're spending on things," she said. "We have to prioritize."
She emphasized that she's lived in Nevada for 51 years and wants to maintain a high quality of life.
"I love it here. I'm planning on retiring here," she said. "I want to give back to the community, and I want the community to be a good place to live in when I retire."
Jeff Schemenauer, 40, has lived in Chichester for 12 years. He joined the Douglas County Sheriff's Office as a deputy in 1999 and made detective in 2006.
"I've been given a lot of opportunities that I'm very thankful for," he said. "The main reason I'm running is for my 10-year-old daughter. I want to show her how to get involved in the community. If you want to make a difference, you have to do more than talk about it. You have to get out there and do it yourself."
If elected, Schemenauer said he would first spend time trying to understand the political system and assimilating with the board.
"Early on, I would be taking advice from senior staff, not trying to rock the boat, but trying to learn for myself the political process," he said.
Then, Schemenauer said, he would listen to constituents, "to see if there are any problems that need to be addressed."
"I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel," he said. "People just want to be heard and feel like action is taken based on their complaint. There is a lot of lip service in politics."
Schemenauer said he's fairly satisfied with how the town's been run so far.
"The manager does a great job, and the Main Street program is getting more popular every year," he said. "With a tight budget, I think the board has done a great job working within the budget."
Looking toward the future, Schemenauer said he's concerned about some development projects, including infrastructure for a new Walmart that created a firestorm among businesses on Service Drive.
"My biggest concern would be to protect the small businesses we have," he said. "We should listen to those who live here and have invested in the community, and we should give them priority."
Marco Caldana, 55, has lived in Chichester since moving to the area from Las Vegas in 2008. He recently retired from 35-plus years in the food and beverage industry, including several years in management.
"I've been wanting to get to Gardnerville for many years," he said. "I've known it's a good community, and I've wanted to get involved in the community. My wife has been doing volunteer work since we moved here, and she's great at it and really enjoys it. I decided to try to jump in and do the same thing."
If elected, Caldana said his top priority would be "to protect the interests of the residents of Gardnerville."
"Just dealing with the reality of budgets and money," he said, "X amount of funds come into the town, and X amount goes out. The No. 1 priority for any board member is to provide good direction and advice to the town manager and act as a responsible sounding board. Secondly, it's to manage finances of the town in a way so that at the end of the year, the things that need to be accomplished can be accomplished without doing bad things to the check book."
Caldana said he would focus on encouraging both existing and new businesses within the town.
"I drive around town and do my absolute best to patronize businesses within the community," he said. "I think if we can be successful in getting people to trust in the town of Gardnerville, meaning residents are there to support businesses, it will create a situation where the desirability of people to be in town increases. That protects property values in the long run, which is on everyone's mind."
Caldana said the town's biggest challenge is limited manpower.
"We have limited man power based on budget constraints," he said. "To get things done, the things we are responsible for as a town to residents, to get them done in a timely and efficient manner, we have to provide the man power. Some folks working for the town are having to jump from task to task, project to project, and they're working hard to get it done, but they just have limited man power to make it happen.
"What I bring is the experience of having managed budgets successfully, having delivered on what the plan was and having delivered results. I think I approach things methodically and unemotionally when it comes to financial responsibilities. I think that will translate into success in my future efforts if I'm fortunate enough to be elected."