Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Love him or hate him — and most, according to repeated election returns, feel the love — Oscar Goodman will be forced to step down as Las Vegas mayor in 2011.
Barring some highly unlikely effort to kill state-imposed term limits, Goodman’s 12 dominating years running the city will end.
But Oscar might not be the last Goodman to rule City Hall.
If he has his way, Carolyn Goodman, founder and president of The Meadows School and his wife of almost half a century, will take the reins when he steps down.
“Carolyn Goodman is my first choice,” the mayor said in a recent Sun interview. “She wants the projects here to be finished, before I’m finished.”
Carolyn Goodman demurred when asked about the possibility. Though people have approached her and suggested she run, she said she hasn’t really thought about it, and that she loves her job as head of the successful private school.
She hinted that Oscar might have floated her name because, according to him, who could be better-suited to complete his mission than his life partner, the woman who “lives, eats and breathes this as I do”?
“I think it’s because our minds are so much on the same path,” she said.
While Carolyn Goodman seemed a bit chagrined by questions about her mayoral ambitions, it’s possible the mayor’s remarks were part of a coordinated effort to raise his wife’s profile. Within the past two months, she has consented to lengthy, wide-ranging interviews with the Sun’s sister publication In Business Las Vegas, and with the KNPR public affairs radio show “State of Nevada.”
Some skeptics question how seriously the mayor’s remarks should be taken, given his propensity to speak off the cuff and to float political trial balloons through the media.
During the interview in which Goodman touted his wife’s potential candidacy, the mayor repeated his assertion that he’s no longer saying “no” to the possibility of running for governor in 2010. Goodman said he aims to make a decision by mid-January.
Though three years is a long time off for voters, some say it’s not too early to consider who is best-suited to finish the projects that have been Goodman’s focus for the past decade, such as Union Park, luring a pro sports team to the city and revitalizing downtown. Because of his long tenure, those efforts have shaped the city bureaucracy’s focus and a change in leadership could mean a fundamental shift in direction.
There’s a possibility three sitting councilmen could run, in addition to Carolyn Goodman, a situation that could bring rivalries to a generally collegial council.
At least two councilmen have been waiting patiently in the wings: Steve Wolfson and perhaps Goodman’s most loyal colleague, Gary Reese, a barber by trade who cuts the mayor’s hair every month.
Reese said he thinks he would have the mayor’s backing should he choose to run, which he is likely to do.
“If I run for mayor, he would support me,” Reese said.
After a recent news conference, Mayor Goodman declined to comment.
Wolfson, a defense attorney, said he’s “humbled and grateful” that his name is being mentioned for mayor. For now, he said, he’s concentrating on his Ward 2 reelection race next year.
But Wolfson said he’s been approached about running for mayor, and is thinking about it.
The third councilman whose name has been mentioned as a possible successor to Goodman is Steven Ross of Ward 6.
Ross declined to comment through a city spokesman, other than to say he’s focusing on issues before the council, and that it’s premature to talk about the mayor’s race.
Las Vegas political consultant Dan Hart, who is not affiliated with any potential candidate, said Carolyn Goodman could be a formidable candidate.
“If she chooses to apply herself as a candidate, absolutely she’s viable,” Hart said. “Anybody considering a race would have to take her seriously.”
Before devoting her energies to The Meadows School, Goodman was a drug and job counselor and founded her own business advising high school students about college. She has a master’s degree in counseling.
The first class of The Meadows School — the valley’s first nonprofit, nonreligious private school, which teaches prekindergarten through 12th grade — met in 1984, after a seven-year fundraising effort. The school has 82 teachers and 910 students on a 40-acre campus in Summerlin.
One question that’s been raised about Oscar Goodman’s political future is his age. He’s 69.
Though Carolyn Goodman declined to reveal her age, it appears she was born about the same time as her husband. She was 67 in August 2006, according to a Reader’s Digest story published that month.
Both East Coast natives, the couple married in 1962 and moved to Las Vegas two years later. They have three sons and a daughter.
Regardless of who it is, she said she hopes the next mayor would concentrate on her husband’s priorities, including the redevelopment of downtown. She said she also thinks promoting improved medical care and research facilities in the city is vital.
And of course, education should be a priority, she said, though she recognizes that the Las Vegas mayor has limited control over local education policy.
Carolyn Goodman is described as sharp, driven and dedicated to her work, like the mayor.
It seems she’s also a true believer — in him and in their joint convictions.
“I believe in his truth. His truth is truth,” she told host Dave Berns during the KNPR interview. “I will die on the sword ... painful though it may be.
“We’re ‘emmes,’ ” she said.
“Emmes” is Yiddish for truth.