Las Vegas Sun

March 26, 2019

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Wild ride over for ‘cowboy commissioner’ Tom Collins

LVCVA Unveils Beatles Plaque

Steve Marcus

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins laugh during a news conference Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in the lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles concert in Las Vegas on Aug. 20, 1964.

From the earliest days of his political career, former Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins has been outrageously quotable — and sometimes just outrageous.

“There are political offices held all over this country by people who have convictions or violent tempers or other behaviors,” Collins said in 1992 as he was running for a seat in the Nevada Assembly.

What happens now?

Gov. Brian Sandoval must appoint a Democrat to replace the Democratic Collins, a decision Sandoval expects to make by Sept. 1.

Although there has been no official word on who will be chosen, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who represented Collins’ former district when he joined the commission, is rumored to be a leading candidate. Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross, who already announced a bid for the seat in the 2016 election, also has expressed interest.

Collins had a pair of misdemeanor battery convictions and a conviction for reckless driving. But his trouble with the law didn’t stop him from winning election for five terms in the Legislature, then 10 years on the Clark County Commission.

His political career came to an abrupt halt this month when Collins, 65, announced he was resigning from the commission, citing “family matters” that would leave him unable to serve his constituents.

His resignation came on the heels of a pair of profanity-laced emails he sent to county employees, including County Manager Don Burnette, that led to Collins’ account being blocked. It’s not clear whether that contributed to his stepping down — Collins did not return requests for comment — but Collins never has been one to shy away from confrontation.

The self-proclaimed “cowboy commissioner,” a former bullrider and power-line installer, is unabashed when expressing his opinions, frequently employing profanities to get his point across. His blunt, often brusque style led to repeated clashes with other elected officials, while at the same time endearing him to many of the residents who make up his largely rural district.

With Collins’ political career over for now (he previously expressed interest in running for North Las Vegas mayor in 2017), here’s a look at his 20 years of public service in his own words, drawn from local news reports:

Quotable Collins

On his battery convictions:

I fight for what I believe in. I used to be a rodeo cowboy. I’ve whopped, and I’ve been whopped.”

— Oct. 30, 1992

On his role as a county commissioner:

I want to get rid of sleaze in government, make it a little cleaner out here as far as perception.”

— Jan. 4, 2005

On opponents of a proposed shooting complex:

They can call Uhaul and pack their ass and leave. Pack your sh*t, and go home. That’s my feelings.”

— Aug. 26, 2009

On county employee layoffs:

You can’t keep cutting on a chicken; pretty soon, it’s going to die. Wait. Make that a cow. You can’t keep cutting on a cow.”

— Oct. 4, 2009

On the county’s role protecting abandoned desert tortoises:

This is almost like tree-hugger frustration. Can’t find no trees to protect in the desert, so it’s tortoises.”

— Oct. 11, 2009

On his re-election campaign:

Tom Collins is a guy who works for his district. If they want a ‘purty’ face, then they can vote for the Mona Lisa or something.”

— Aug. 21, 2012

On shooting a tree:

What I do on my own time is nobody’s business.”

— Aug. 23, 2012

On supporters of embattled rancher Cliven Bundy:

(They) better have funeral plans.”

— April 14, 2014

On his personal troubles:

I’ve been in a downward spiral for a couple of years; I admit it. I’ve done some rude things and some not pleasant things. ... A lot of it is when there’s sarcasm or trying to turn pain to humor, however you want to take it. I have not treated my colleagues the way I should have.”

— April 15, 2014

On an unidentified county employee, in an email:

You are a total prick. You may as well crawl under (redacted) skirt. But first, stay the f#&k away from me. You are a simple plague!”

— July 17, 2015

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