Remembering John Mayer

KOLO 8 News Now's Ed Pearce looks back at the community service of John Mayer.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:08 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -The city of Sparks and its schools lost one of their own this week. John Mayer, a third-generation resident, long-time educator and the longest-serving councilman in city history, passed away.

I knew John Mayer when we were both serving in the Air Force. You always knew where he was from and what he wanted to do.

“I’m going to be the mayor of Sparks,” he’d say, “so I can be Mayor Mayer.” That tells you a lot about his sense of humor and his connection to his hometown.

He never became Mayor Mayer, but few have left a more lasting imprint on a community.

When Donald Abbott was a kindergartner at Greenbrae Elementary, his principal was John Mayer.

A couple of years later he learned his principal was also a councilman when Mayer took a group of students on a field trip to city hall.

“We walked from Greenbrae down Fourth Street to the city council, waved, said hello. We walked back to school and ended our day. That was my first council meeting.”

Today Abbott sits in Mayer’s old office, filling the Ward One council seat his former principal once occupied.

“When I decided to run back in 2016, I reached out to him. ‘John, what did I get myself into? I need some advice.’ And he was one who definitely gave me lots of advice.”

They met often in recent years, usually for lunch, and Abbott tells a story about one lunch at a favorite diner that says also says a lot about his former principal and mentor.

“There were two kids crying and he talked with them. They were my friend’s kids. I’ll never forget it. They knew who he was. John just loved everybody. It was always fun to go to lunch with him because he’d talk to every kid in the whole place. There were no strangers in John’s world.”

Plain spoken, usually with a touch of humor, always the calmest guy in the room, he didn’t have to be prompted to share on his own childhood memories, as he did telling stories about growing up in Sparks as in a video tribute produced by the city on his retirement from the council.

“Growing up in Sparks was unique because Sparks was a railroad town,” he said at the time, “and, of course, my dad was a locomotive engineer. My mother was a school nurse. It was just a family town. We used to have block parties.”

But as an educator, councilman, and later a school board member he was always that guy. Calm, wise, caring, and focused on creating a future of fun and opportunity for the generations to come.

“He had so much of an impact on so many community members, " says Abbott, “from not only being our principal but being a coach, being a councilman and just being a caring person.”