Meet Our 2018 Labor Candidates: Steve Sisolak for Nevada Governor

Meet Steve Sisolak

Fast Facts:

 Steve served on the Nevada Board of Regents for 10 years
★ Steve's GoFundMe campaign in the aftermath of the #1October shooting in Las Vegas raised more than $11 million for victims and their families
 To put himself through college at UNLV, Steve worked at the California Hotel & Casino (weighing quarters!)

A Las Vegan since the mid-1970s and a force in Southern Nevada politics for more than 20 years, Steve Sisolak's name is a familiar one to most of us. A fierce supporter of education, Steve served on the Nevada Board of Regents for 10 years before he was elected to the Clark County Commission in 2008, where he now serves as chairman, where he continued his work to improve the Silver State's educational systems.

Steve Sisolak's bid for governor of Nevada is the next chapter of a long career fighting for the futures of everyday Nevadans, and he took time out of his packed campaign schedule to talk to us about how he'll move Nevada—and Nevadans—forward if he's elected. 

You've served on the Board of Regents, and as chairman of the Clark County Commission. How did your work in those seats contribute to your decision to run for governor of Nevada?

I moved to Nevada over 40 years ago to earn my MBA at UNLV, and I stayed to start my own business. I chose to run for regent back then because I wanted to devote my energy to improving the higher education system in Nevada—a system that had opened so many doors for me. I'm a product of public schools myself, and I'm a father of two daughters who also attended UNLV, so I know the impact that a high-quality, affordable education can have on Nevadans. I’m passionate about making sure everyone has the same access.

Later I decided to run for the Clark County Commission to continue serving Southern Nevada. I was elected, and I’ve continued that dedication to education there, and have been able to expand my service to other important issues, like looking out for Nevada’s workers by ensuring we attract good-paying jobs to Clark County.

That wasn’t always easy. I came into office at the height of the Great Recession, and our state was struggling. But we made investments, we found savings, and we made sacrifices. We attracted new businesses — and sports teams! — and broke ground on new projects. All told, we created 160,000 new jobs and cut unemployment in half. That’s what happens when you invest in your workers, and it’s what I’ll do more of in Carson City as Nevada's governor. So my run for this important office is a continuation of these values I’ve held for a long time. Nevada has a promising future, but to get there, we need to keep moving us all forward, not backward.

Education, jobs, and workforce development are among your biggest concerns. Do you believe that investments in career and technical education (CTE) and workforce training programs are especially critical for Nevada right now? If elected, what are your goals for career and technical education and workforce training for Nevada's students?

Improving Nevada’s education system will be a cornerstone of my work as governor. And central to my education plan is investing in opportunities and partnerships that will not only expand career and technical education but also help Nevadans graduating high school to be career-ready. Earlier this year I had the chance to visit the Operating Engineers Local #3 in Reno to see this exact type of advanced career training in action. It was amazing to see students in a top-notch, learn-while-you-earn program, and these are exactly the types of opportunites that we should be talking about and investing in. Right now, these programs might be the best-kept secret, but they won’t be secrets when I’m governor. We know these programs work for our workers, work for our employers, and work for our families. When I’m governor, we’re going to be doing more of this.

What jobs sectors do you anticipate will see growth in Nevada over the next several years? How do your interests in economic diversification intersect with those sectors?

There is no doubt that Nevada has an opportunity to become the leader in clean, renewable energy — and these also happen to be some of the country’s fastest-growing sectors. Not only do renewable energy projects protect our resources and environment, they create good-paying jobs in our communities. We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass us by.

Nevada runs on labor. You're of course very familiar with the Culinary Union, a strong and visible force in the Southern Nevada hospitality industry, but there are hundreds of thousands of union members in dozens of industries around our state fighting every day for fair wages, affordable healthcare, job security, and good working conditions. If you're elected, what are your goals for Nevada's working families? What role do you see a strong labor community playing in Nevada's future?

As governor, my number-one goal will be to make this state better, and fight as hard as I can for Nevada’s working families. And, for me, fighting for Nevada’s working families means improving our education system, diversifying our economy by attracting good-paying jobs in industries that last, and protecting your family’s access to quality, affordable health care.

I’m a lifelong supporter of organized labor because it’s committed to these same values. It’s organized labor that walks into unsafe worksites with underpaid workers, and fights until that worksite is safer, makes sure those workers get paid what they deserve, and creates a little more freedom and dignity for those men and women. From wages to safer working conditions, the fights taken on by unions have raised the standards for workers across our state, and I see that role becoming even more important as our new economy attracts more jobs in high tech, renewable energy, manufacturing, and engineering to Nevada.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To learn more about Steve Sisolak and the issues that are important to him, visit his campaign website at stevesisolak.com. Also see the national AFL-CIO's profile of Steve Sisolak here—part of the AFL-CIO's "Best Candidates for Working People" series.