Sparks City Council Ward 2: VanderWell vs. Eastwick

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 11:17 PM PDT
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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - Early voting is underway and Sparks voters will find two names on the ballot for city council Ward 2, including incumbent Dian VanderWell.

VanderWell, who was appointed in 2020, is defending her seat and if successful, she plans to continue some of her current projects like widening Pyramid Highway and working with parks in her Ward to do cleanups.

“I believe that we need clean, safe and affordable neighborhoods to raise our families and where our small businesses can thrive,” she said. “That’s important to me, parks are important to me.”

Her challenger, Johnny Eastwick, owns the Victorian Saloon (908 Victorian Ave, Sparks) and hopes to be a voice for the people.

“A lot of times, the small business and the hardworking people are treated like second class citizens compared to the casinos, the developers and the big companies and I want to change that,” he said.

In 2019 he feuded with the city, after refusing to raise drink prices during special events promoted by the Nugget Casino Resort. Eastwick rents patio space from the city, and because he did not comply, the city confiscated his patio furniture.

“We pay rent for those all-year long and then the city during the events, those patio don’t belong to us even though we pay rent for them,” explained Eastwick. “We have to pay tribute to the casinos like serves to a king and it’s very frustrating, and I’m going to make sure that stops.”

He told KOLO8 News Now, he has always been interested in running. Although his business is in Ward 1, he resides in Ward 2.

VanderWell who is also an agent and realtor believes the biggest issue for her constituents is sustainable housing.

“I believe in the city of Sparks what we try to do is, we try to make sure that we’re open to all types of housing and that’s what we are approving,” she said. “Not everybody wants to live in a single-family home so we need more condos, we need more townhomes, we need just different types of housing.”

With Sparks running out of land, they both agree with Mayor Ed Lawson’s vision to replace warehouses with homes and apartments along the Truckee River. They also support the Truckee Meadows Public Management Lands Act, which would free up tens of thousands of acres of federal land for new development east of Sparks.

Aside from housing, the city is also dealing with stretched-thin public safety services, which VanderWell says is already a priority for the council.

“We make sure on our budget that we overfund positions for both police and fire so it is important, it is very important,” she said.

For Eastwick, public safety services is the first item on his list.

“We do need police officers and firefighters, we’re very short-handed and I’ve been putting together a bonus structure, internal recruiting program for the police department and the firefighters that I think will be really exciting for the city,” he said.

The business owner adds that being part of city council is his way of giving back to a community that has supported him and is feeling underrepresented.

“I want to see smiles on the faces of the hardworking people of Sparks because it has been a while since that’s happened,” said Eastwick.

For VanderWell, who served in the Planning Commission, getting involved with her local government happened after an incident almost 20 years ago.

“The foreclosed home next to us was taken over by squatters and turned into a drug den and one night there was a storm and my four-year-old daughter at the time found a hypodermic needle and accidentally pricked herself in the leg with it,” she said.

Fortunately, her daughter was fine and by getting involved, she was able to get the squatters out. Now, she works to make sure local government addresses the challenges the community face to prevent something like this from happening again.

Ward 2 covers northwest Sparks from west of Wildcreek Golf Course to a bit east of Wedekind Regional Park. The Ward also covers part of Pyramid Lake Highway, Sparks Middle School and Alice Maxwell School.