Meet Our 2018 Labor Candidates: Greg Smith, Washoe County Commissioner District 5

Fast Facts:

 Greg has been a big game hunter and avid outdoorsman for nearly 40 years, and is passionate about wildlife conversation and open spaces. 
 Greg was a member of the Operating Engineers Local 3 in Nevada for more than 35 years.
★ Greg was motivated to run in part by his late wife and former Nevada Senator, Debbie Smith, who was a force in Nevada politics, a fighter for education, and a fellow union member.

Think of the Washoe County Board of Commissions as the chief executive officers of the county. Washoe County’s five commissioners are responsible for both policy-making and the administration and oversight of those policies. That means the decisions of a county commissioner can have have long-term and far-reaching impacts on the county and its constituents, and retired union administrator Greg Smith, husband of the late and beloved Nevada State Senator Debbie Smith, and the labor-endorsed candidate for county commissioner in district 5 and, understands and is prepared to take on that responsibility in Washoe County.

“Debbie’s philosophy was always ‘don’t complain—get out and do something about it’,” says Greg, who admits that Debbie often joked with him about running for office now that he was retired, “but in all seriousness, she inspired me to run.”

District 5, which includes parts of Reno and Sparks, all of Verdi and the North Valleys and extending up through Gerlach to the Oregon border, is the county’s largest district in total land area, covering 89% of Washoe County. It also covers some of our most important roadways, including Highway 80 west of Reno, and the oft-congested sections of Highway 395 coming into Reno from the North Valleys. Traffic, Greg says, is one of the first and biggest regional issues he plans to tackle once in office.

“One of the most effective things I can do as a county commissioner is to get on regional transportation and planning committees,” he says. “Traffic is one thing that’s really killing us right now. We need a squeakier wheel on the commission.”

Greg says he wants to see progress on a light rail system. “Union Pacific has agreed to work with local government on a light rail schedule,” he says, “which was a big hurdle.” Now he’s ready to leverage an array of resources to get traffic moving smoothly and safely into and out of the city, starting with adding extra lanes to clogged corridors, then working toward widening bridges and addressing pinch points and critical needs, like levees and flooding issues.

“There are challenges, and these things have to do with money, of course,” he says. “But I think we can overcome those things, and reduce commute times and the number of accidents happening on those roads.”

Transportation isn’t the only issue on Greg’s agenda. A retired member of the Operating Engineers Local 3, and administrator of the OE3 apprenticeship program for 16 years, he’s committed to advancing and protecting labor issues in Washoe County, and creating more jobs and training opportunities to meet the needs of the regional construction boom in Northern Nevada. He believes that a strong union helps bring up the wage scale for everyone in the community, and that the economic climate is right for local unions to gain leverage and expand if they have support from legislators.

“Non-union jobs are forced to pay union-level wages now just to keep up and get the help they need,” he says. “But of course they don’t have the same kinds of benefits.”

Greg says improving transportation and infrastructure and increasing the construction workforce in Northern Nevada are key to bringing in high-paying jobs that will last, and that union labor is paramount to that. 

Beyond its value for economic development, Greg also knows the value of union work for Nevada’s working families. 

“I retired from the union, as did my late wife Debbie. My son-in-law is a union plumber in Portland,” he says. “Labor has always been a big part of my family.” 

Greg is endorsed by Nevada labor, as well as the Nevada Law Enforcement Coalition, Nevada Conservation League, Senator Cortez-Masto, among others. Visit Greg Smith's campaign website here.