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October 25, 2014

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Longtime Sunset Station employee reminisces on casino’s 15th birthday

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Courtesy Station Casinos

Sheila Zaun, the first employee hired at Sunset Station, tests pillows that will be included in the hotel in this 1996 photo. Sunset Station opened June 9, 1997 in Henderson.

Sheila Zaun has an interesting claim to fame: She got to pick the pillows for the hotel rooms at Sunset Station.

Zaun has worked as an administrative assistant in the executive offices of the resort since before it opened 15 years ago today.

Henderson has changed dramatically over the past decade and a half, Zaun said. She has watched neighborhoods and subdivisions pop up, along with shopping plazas and big-box stores.

In 1997, when Sunset Station opened, the U.S. Census Bureau counted 137,000 people in Henderson. The population had nearly doubled to 258,000 by 2010, the last time the Census counted.

As the first employee hired by then-General Manager Don Marrandino, Zaun moved from Boulder Station to a temporary office behind Palace Station while Sunset Station was being built. She helped pick workers' uniforms and watched the European-influenced design of the casino take shape. She saw employees be hired and stood front and center when Sunset's doors opened.

"Station has always had a knack for hiring the right people for each property," she said.

Zaun cringes when talking about the public battle raging between Station Casinos and the Culinary Union. She said she doesn't understand what the fuss is all about. Zaun said she has seen people stay with the company for years. They wouldn't stay if they weren't happy, she added.

"Everyone here has been really easy-going and hard workers," Zaun said.

Of course, there have been hard times, too, particularly when the economy collapsed and Station was forced to restructure through bankruptcy.

"It was difficult to see people have to leave," Zaun said of the resulting layoffs. "It was a tough time for them. It was also a tough time for management. I can tell you it was a hard decision for every single person they had to let go."

Zaun said the biggest change she has seen over the years has been improved benefits, such as health insurance.

"They're constantly trying to find ways to make things better for team members and find insurance people can afford," Zaun said.

Being in the executive offices, Zaun is responsible for answering phones, and she's often one of the first people customers talk to when they have a complaint.

"People complain about the smoke or that they can't find that one slot machine they love to play, and we have to tell them where we moved it," she said. "Sometimes people just want to complain, and you let them rant a little while and they're happy. We do get positive comments, but usually you tend to hear from the people who aren't happy."

Zaun said her favorite part of the job is the consistent clientele. Station Casinos has been a leader in introducing the concept of "locals casinos" built in neighborhoods to serve nearby residents.

"It's the people who make it fun," Zaun said.

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