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August 22, 2014

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City Government:

North Las Vegas councilwoman follows her father’s footsteps to City Hall

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Leila Navidi

North Las Vegas Ward 2 City Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown inside her office at North Las Vegas City Hall on Thursday, March 22, 2012.

Pamela Goynes-Brown

North Las Vegas Ward 2 City Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown inside her office at North Las Vegas City Hall on Thursday, March 22, 2012. Launch slideshow »

New City Hall Dedicated

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, former Mayor Oscar Goodman and former City Councilman Gary Reese unveil a building dedication plaque during the dedication of the new city hall in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 5, 2012. Launch slideshow »

North Las Vegas Ward 2 Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown may have been overlooked last summer when she first took office.

The 49-year-old Scott Elementary School assistant principal and longtime resident of the ward she now represents joined the council in the midst of a battle for the Ward 4 seat between then-incumbent Richard Cherchio and current Councilman Wade Wagner.

And while some council members are vocal about hot topics such as the budget and union contracts, Goynes-Brown may seem timid, casting her votes quietly. But don’t be mistaken; what Goynes-Brown does is with calculation, she says.

“Don’t take my quietness for granted because I am participating fully,” said Goynes-Brown. “I’m just a very quiet person.”

Goynes-Brown is the first black woman to serve on the council. She not only represents Ward 2 but is also the mayor pro tempore, a role she said has so far been rewarding.

“It just gives you a sense of knowing that people trust you a little more, (that) they can come to you,” said Goynes-Brown. “I don’t turn anybody away.”

For Goynes-Brown, a North Las Vegas resident since 1964, it’s no surprise that she now sits on the city’s council.

Her father, Theron Goynes, served on the council for 28 years. As a young girl, Goynes-Brown remembers attending meetings.

“We used to, right across the street here, come to council meetings,” Goynes-Brown said in her corner office on the ninth floor of the new North Las Vegas City Hall that overlooks the valley.

Click to enlarge photo

Longtime educator and former North Las Vegas City Councilman Theron Goynes, one of the parade's grand marshals, waves from a car during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in downtown Las Vegas January 17, 2011.

The council moved in just months ago from the old city hall, which was built in 1966.

“We had no idea (what city council meetings were about), but we knew we had to come,” Goynes-Brown said. “I remember running across the grass there several times. You know, you get bored when you’re in those meetings when you’re a child.”

She grew up on Veronica Street in a “small community within a community.”

But it wasn’t all great for her family. When her parents came to North Las Vegas, Goynes-Brown said, they had a hard time buying a home. They were black and had to have a co-signer when it was time to purchase the home they still live in.

She and her two siblings attended St. Joseph Elementary School and, years later, graduated from Bishop Gorman High School.

“My parents put us in private school early on because of issues with segregation back then,” the councilwoman said. “They were educators, too. They just didn’t want us to go through some of those things.”

A classical pianist, Goynes-Brown went on to graduate from Prairie View A&M University with a degree in music education, and she later received a master’s in elementary education from NOVA Southeastern University.

She graduated on a Sunday afternoon and had to catch a flight back to the valley later that night so she could start her first day on the job at Mabel Hoggard Elementary School.

After 20 years as a music specialist and an elementary educator, Goynes-Brown took a job as an assistant principal.

When the Ward 2 seat was vacated last year, she said her brother was instrumental in her decision to run for office, convincing her that she has what it takes to represent her ward. Her job as an assistant principal, Goynes-Brown said, is similar to her role as a councilwoman.

“What I do now as an administrator with the school district, I’m dealing with the public in that aspect, as well,” Goynes-Brown said. “It’s on a different level, but you meet with people daily. People come to me all the time and they want solutions, and it’s my job to provide them.”

In June, Goynes-Brown was elected to the council seat with almost 60 percent of the vote.

As the city faces another budget deficit in the coming fiscal year, the councilwoman said she is doing her part to make sure North Las Vegas, once considered one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, pulls out of its financial abyss.

“We are moving forward, and that’s our motto,” Goynes-Brown said. “With changes that have taken place, new people — the city manager, finance director — the only place we can go is up … and we are working diligently to do that.”

This weekend, the councilwoman attended a neighborhood cleanup. Next week, she is planning to take part in a Ward 2 business walk, talking to businesses about economic development. At the end of the month, she is planning a town hall meeting and informational health fair for her ward.

She said the council as a whole is also working together like never before.

“I think you’re going to see a council that’s way more cohesive than it has been in the past,” she said. “It’s just a matter of changing an image and moving forward.”

Goynes-Brown, whose parents and husband attend almost every council meeting, said she is humbled to serve the city of North Las Vegas. She said her goal is making sure Ward 2, nicknamed “the senior ward” for its long history, isn’t forgotten.

“The area that I represent — I’ve lived in it, I’ve seen it from then until where it is now,” she said. “These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I’m blessed and I’m very, very thankful.”

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