Sep. 05, 2010
A little power goes to our reporter's head as mayor of Mesquite
Mesquite will never be the same. No, seriously.
This sleepy hamlet about 90 minutes north of the valley has just legalized prostitution, imposed martial law and declared war on Las Vegas.
All in a day's work for Mayor Corey.
While I've tackled numerous inappropriate job duties in this series, none approaches this level of inappropriateness. Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck placed a city entirely under my control.
In addition to my controversial decrees, I introduced and called for votes on agenda items at the Aug. 10 City Council meeting -- including the construction of a multimillion-dollar veterans center. (Hear that, Mr. Votino, my eighth-grade social studies teacher who gave me a "D" and said I would never amount to anything?)
Enhancing the preposterousness, Holecheck didn't even introduce me to the 50 citizens gathered in the auditorium or the thousands possibly watching on local cable. Only my five City Council members -- and a few spectators who recognized my name -- had a suitable explanation for the information being reported by their eyes and ears.
Mesquite wasn't my first choice of city to leave a semipermanent mark on, I'll be honest. But Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City all said no. (Then again, Boulder City always says no.)
"The only way I would allow you to perform any portion of my duties, for any amount of time," Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman told me, "is if you run for mayor against me and win."
I'm glad the valley banished me, though. Mesquite is a groovy, Palm Springs-like oasis with its own casino resorts, golf courses, even an art museum. Holecheck, a former paralegal from Phoenix who moved to Nevada in 1991, has been in charge since 2007.
"It's almost like pride in ownership," she said. "Every once in a while someone will come up and say, 'I think Mesquite is a great place,' and you like to feel you had something to do with it."
Less impressive are the financial rewards. Holecheck, 61, earns $19,000 per year, which is why she couldn't consider running when she was younger and required an actual living from her full-time job.
Although Holecheck's administration has so far avoided scandal, mine was nearly brought down by it. Worse, showgirls were involved. The big laugh I expected from Holecheck when I strolled into City Hall with one under each armpit, like Goodman, was not what I received.
"You should have told me you were bringing showgirls," Holecheck said after ushering me into her office and shutting the door. "This is a conservative city."
When Jackie McDaniel, 71, and Suzanne Jipson, 65, told me their ages over the phone, I pictured George Costanza's mom from "Seinfeld." (Unlike Goodman's showgirls, mine don't age out from under my armpits.) The problem is that McDaniel and Jipson -- members of the Las Vegas Follies senior dance troupe -- showed up looking all Barbara Eden hot.
Holecheck agreed to let them accompany me to the dedication of the new Mesquite Police Department headquarters. After that, though, they had to go.
Following the ceremony -- marked by what Councilman Karl Gustaveson called my "great aptitude for cutting the ribbon" -- Police Chief Doug Law (no joke) introduced himself and informed me that Mesquite doesn't have much crime. So I fired him for not having much of a job.
Already, Mesquite's budget was on revenue road.
And Mayor Holecheck was wrong about the showgirls. Patrol officers, detectives, even council members lined up to take photos standing between them. Nope, Mesquite loves showgirls. (I sent them packing anyway, though, because they were stealing my limelight.)
The war with Las Vegas thing happened during a mayor-to-mayor phone call I admit was utterly owned by Mayor Goodman. The happiest mayor on earth was a vicious hump-buster, returning every prepared barb I served with double the sarcastic velocity.
"There's not room for two Jewish mayors in this valley," he said at one point.
Diplomatic relations broke down after I announced the amassing of Mesquite's army in Moapa on the Las Vegas border. Without missing a beat, Goodman predicted that I would "surrender immediately and ask for foreign aid."
There was only one way to crush my mayoral adversary at this point: beat him to his own personal dream of luring a professional sports team to Nevada. George Maloof, co-owner of the Sacramento Kings as well as the Palms, once gave me his cell number and I kept it. Negotiations would now begin to will the Mesquite Kings into reality (or, if they'd prefer a cooler name, the Mesquite Barbecue).
Maloof's voice mail picked up. I left a message.
Back at the council meeting, the proceedings got sufficiently out of hand for city attorney Cheryl Hunt to interrupt.
"For the record, I'd just like to state that Mayor Holecheck is present and presiding over this meeting," she said.
Not really, though. Holecheck did little more than sit among the spectators, occasionally smiling and nodding.
The Mesquite Local News wrote that I "brought panache to the position" and "handled the duties with minimal coaching." The Desert Valley Times -- yes, Mesquite is a two-newspaper town! -- went as far as endorsing me as a 2011 write-in mayoral candidate, "as long as he refrains from being a go-go dancer." (This prompted my Facebook friend Martin to accuse me of running an "iron-fisted dictatorship, seizing control of the press and turning it into state-run media.")
In reality, I was simply following a foolproof script left by Holecheck that detailed everything I needed to say under every possible scenario. The only situation I accept full credit for finessing is an attempt to stir chaos by one of Mesquite's most colorful residents. Jack Walsh was a City Hall regular until being banned six months ago for insulting Holecheck's administrative assistant. Today was his first trip back to the microphone.
Walsh did not betray his reputation for incomprehensible diatribes. After apparently describing, for two minutes and 30 seconds, a judge's decision to overturn a similar ban he claims was imposed on him by "every court in New York state," Walsh turned to storm out.
I informed him that he still had 30 more seconds, if he wanted to use them. (Journalism teaches you how to deal with colorful characters.)
Walsh fired back: "Put it on my card!"
Of course, the whole time, I watched Walsh's hands for a handgun grab. (Mesquite has no metal detectors and, as of this morning thanks to me, no police chief.)
So far there have been no legal challenges to my decrees -- which also included installing Swedish as Mesquite's official language, banning anyone more than 300 pounds from wearing shorts in public, and declaring Mesquite its own kingdom and me its king.
"We'd like that!" a female spectator shouted.
Alas, my administration must ultimately be considered a failure. George Maloof never did return that voice mail.
Maybe one day LeBron James will wear Mesquite Barbecue colors. But some other mayor will have to take the credit.
Watch video of Levitan serving as mayor of Mesquite at www.lvrj.com/mayorcorey. Fear and Loafing runs the first Sunday of each month in the Living section. Levitan's previous columns are posted at lvrj.com/corey and fearandloafing.com. If you have a Fear and Loafing idea, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (702) 383-0456.
Fear and Loafing appears every Monday in the Living section. Levitan's previous adventures can be found at www.fearandloafing.com.