Clark County Commissioner and Democrat, Steve Sisolak, is arguably primed to become the frontrunner for his party's nomination for governor, based on fundraising efforts, significant endorsements, and name recognition. To see where he stands on the issues, he spoke to our news director, Michelle Billman, about his agenda as governor and how he plans to appeal to voters in Northern Nevada.
On a basic level, why do you want to be governor? It's a big job.
It is a big job, but I've been fortunate. I've lived in Nevada now for more than 40 years and I've got my master's degree at UNLV. I'm a single dad, raised two daughters, and I'm very proud of both of them. I've been successful in business. I've had the opportunity to get involved in public service and I see that we've improved a lot in Nevada. But there are a lot of areas where we can still improve further, and I would like to bring the same opportunities to everyone that I had when I moved to Nevada. I think I can provide a lot of resources to the state.
Take me through the top two or three legislative priorities that you're pushing for.
The three big issues that I'm focusing on in my campaign and I intend to focus on in my administration are jobs, education and healthcare.
To break those down a little bit, we're seeing a lot of economic development, but there are concerns that the actual jobs that we're getting here are relatively low wage jobs...
Well, when you get into the jobs, the first thing you've got to do is attract construction jobs to build the facilities for the permanent jobs. Those are not usually low paying jobs. Those are tradesmen and tradeswomen that make a good wage in the $60,000 to $100,000 a year range. Now, I'm not in favor of creating minimum wage jobs. That's not what it's about. It's about creating high-quality jobs. When you get in the tech industries, and some of those ancillary businesses related to them, they are better paying. When you look at attracting businesses you need to decide what is going to provide the best paying opportunities and jobs for citizens and constituents.
Governor Sandoval has pinpointed the need for more job training and preparations so that we actually do have the workforce for, as you mentioned, the tech companies that are coming in. How do we make that happen?
I think that's one of the platforms that I am focusing my campaign on is job training. I think we need to do more in our K-12 system in terms of job training. I spent ten years on the board of regents and spent quite a bit of time in Northern Nevada as it relates to UNR and the community colleges, and one of the frustrating things I saw was students who are going to school for five years to get a four-year degree because [they] couldn't get [their] capstone courses. Then they're graduating with $60,000 to $80,000 worth of student loan debt and the only job they could get would be an assistant manager at a grocery store or a fast food restaurant. So, I think we kind of misled them in terms of what would be at the end of the educational rainbow, so to speak. I think we need to do more in the high schools to get back into more vocational and technical training. We can take a student, and whether you're training them in the tech industry or you're
training them in the culinary industry or your're training them in one of the building trades, let them spend their junior and senior year acquiring some of those skills and move them immediately into an apprenticeship and journeyman, and they can support themselves and they'll be immediately eligible for those higher-paying jobs.
You've got another fellow Clark County Commissioner, Chris Giunchigliani, also running as a democratic candidate. How are you going to set yourself apart from her?
Well, Chris and I are different and where our priorities lie. I mean, I think we've got some things that are in common, some of the democratic principles that appeal to both of us, but I've got more experience in terms of running the commission. I'm in my fifth year as chairman of the county commission. I'm in the middle of my third term on the county commission, but I've made education a priority having served 10 years on the Board of Regents, which is a volunteer job. It wasn't a paid job. I think I'm more familiar with the workforce and developments, so I think there's a distinct difference between the two of us.