Jeremy Gregersen is one of the best teachers at the city’s best educational institution, The Meadows School. Last year he was one of 54 teachers nationwide awarded the Milken Educator Award. He was recognized based on his leadership, the quality of his teaching, his interaction with the community and his promise for subsequent contributions to child development. “He’s extremely intelligent and insightful as far as the material he is covering,” head of The Meadows School Henry Chanin says. Gregersen was named dean of studies for the upcoming school year, but he will continue to teach English. “He opens up the material,” Chanin says. “The students find that he is satisfying their intellectual curiosity.” And at The Meadows, there’s a lot to satisfy.
Brothers Chris Rauschnot (@24k, 48,805 followers) and Bill Cody (@vegasbill, 40,500 followers) are both full-time social media consultants and attend more events than even the most seasoned socialite. They each dispatch up to 100 Tweets daily, and their red-carpet coverage graces myvegasscene.com, YouTube’s “Gershwin9” channel and is even featured on CBS News locally. “Ninety percent of the time we’re not paid for this work,” Chris says. “It’s truly a love for Las Vegas and a passion for what we’re doing.” It’s also a great case study for their work: designing social media programs for hospitality and nightlife companies. “I Tweet from when I get up to when I go to bed,” Bill says. Their business CodyCom, encourages companies to embrace social media. Bill adds that while he might appear to Tweet at socially inappropriate times (such as during dinner), Tweeting is quickly becoming more accepted and even encouraged, especially among the pair’s foodie followers.
Best Potential Soccer Star
Antonio Murillo, a midfielder for the U.S. under-15 boys national team, is already ahead of the pace set by Herculez Gomez, the Las Vegas High School graduate who earned a spot on this year’s U.S. World Cup team. While Gomez, 28, was a late bloomer, the 15-year-old Murillo (who is a sophomore at Eldorado High School but doesn’t play there) is part of the Olympic Development Program and plays with teens two years his elder on his Vegas-based Neusport Club team. “He has great vision of the game and has a tremendous work ethic,” says Frank D’Amelio, Neusport coach. “He’s got great potential. [He] has the potential to make it as far as Herculez Gomez. Technically, he’s a better player.” Murillo was one of 18 players nationwide—along with fellow Las Vegan and Neusport teammate Antonio Velasquez—to travel with the U-15 national team to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in May.
Michael Dakduk was a shoe-in. We’re pretty sure there are brainier students out there, but it’s tough to beat this guy’s extracurriculars. The 24-year-old UNLV senior is a Marine Corps veteran, vice president of the national Student Veterans of America organization, and was instrumental in starting a local Student Veterans of America Organization. Add to that the fact that Dakduk is one of only 60 college students across the nation to receive the Truman Scholarship, a graduate school scholarship awarded to student leaders interested in a career in government. The only drawback? The Las Vegas native plans to attend Princeton, where he’ll study international affairs. He adds that he’ll miss his hometown, but the school made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Last semester UNLV professor Dick Tandy was talking to his statistics class about the site RateMyProfessor.com. “I mentioned that it was a pretty unscientific way of collecting information,” he recalls. “And they said, ‘Yeah, and you’re in the top 12!’” The students were referring to the “Top 25” list of professors across the country, as rated by fellow students. Tandy is the only Southern Nevada professor represented on the list. His main gig is kinesiology (he teaches statistics to undergrads), and he has been at UNLV since 1989. No matter what the subject, he is known for his engaging and humorous teaching style. But that’s not all. In addition to high ratings for quality, helpfulness and clarity, the website gave him a “red chili pepper” rating for “hotness.”
Best Minor League Player—Ever
For more than a quarter-century, aspiring major leaguers have passed through Las Vegas (as Stars or 51s) on the final stop before “The Show.” Making the biggest impact in Major League Baseball after having spent a significant amount time at Cashman Field? We say that’s catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. The brother of likely Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar (who appeared in nine games for the Stars in 1988), Sandy played in the big leagues for nearly 20 years. Before becoming a six-time All-Star, Alomar was the Pacific Coast League’s two-time MVP in 1988-89. “I don’t think that’ll ever happen again—especially how players move around now,” says Jim Gemma, the Las Vegas 51s’ longtime media relations director.
Best Sign Spinner
The standouts in an industry drive us forward and encourage us to work harder. To literally stand out … on a curb … in Vegas … in the summertime … and inspire everyone who drives by deserves recognition. The sign spinner often seen at Pecos Road and Wigwam Parkway touting “A Gentle Cleanse—Colon Hydrotherapy” is an inspiration. Named Pelvis Cleansley and donned in full Elvis regalia with a guitar-shaped sign, he dances, gyrates and waves—and waves and waves. Once you get past the humorous getup and watch him a bit you realize that he is no joke; this man is a professional. Drive by again an hour later, and he’s still going, full-on, with the same energy as before. On another day, a different curb, in another costume and for another cause, the same dance and wave, never standing still, a regular good omen reminding us that if he can do it, we can do it.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Linda Lera-Randle El deserves sainthood. Through her program, Straight From the Streets, she provides food, clothing, shelter and job leads for dozens of Las Vegas Valley homeless people in any given year. She builds their trust; taps into an informal network of nonprofit groups; churches, synagogues and mosques; and government agencies. She’s worked to defeat a Las Vegas city ordinance that criminalized the feeding of homeless people, and another that prevented people from sleeping in public parks, arguing that a caring, compassionate society embraces and cares for its weakest rather than subjecting them to Oscar Goodman-style bullying. Lera-Randle El sees the person behind the grimy face, the soul within the haggard body. And she appears to be the real thing. She doesn’t live in an expensive home or drive a luxury vehicle. In fact, she’s more likely to let a homeless family stay with her for a couple of nights than ask a potential donor for money, and you’ll find her driving Valley neighborhoods—day or night—seeking to help people that most of us ignore and fear.
Best Civil Servant
When taxpayers complain about overpaid, underworked bureaucrats, it’s obvious they’ve never met Brenda Erdos, chief legal counsel for the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), who splits her time between Las Vegas and Carson City. She’s legendary for working 18-hour days during legislative sessions, parsing bills at midnight, e-mailing lawmakers and staff at 2 a.m., then appearing at her office desk at 8 a.m. During February’s special legislative session, Erdos had worked a 15-hour day when she was asked to testify at 11 p.m. during a full session of the State Senate. Legislators, lobbyists and journalists were exhausted, but Erdos’ mind was crisp; her recall was sharp and explanations nuanced; her demeanor was good-natured. LCB’s 70-person Legal Division serves as the nonpartisan legal adviser to the Legislature, writing, researching and explaining every bill, every amendment under consideration. It also prosecutes, defends or intervenes in any action, lawsuit or any other judicial or administrative proceeding to protect the official interests of the Legislature. Erdos has worked nearly 30 years for LCB and almost 17 as the head of the Legal Division, and many lawmakers and co-workers fear the day when she retires. In fact, her bosses haven’t asked about her retirement plans, says one legislative source, because they fear her answer.
Best Radio/TV Personality
Yes, Jon Ralston has the rapid-fire verbal pacing and East Coast aura of Joe Pesci circa 1990 (think Lethal Weapon 3 or Goodfellas), but it makes for good TV, and no one—no one—in Nevada print or broadcast journalism is better prepared for interviews. His conversations with Nevada politicians on Face to Face (KSNV Channel 3) have become fodder for national cable news outlets, with MSNBC, among others, replaying some of the juiciest cuts from his conversations with Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle and ex-John Ensign best buddy Doug Hampton. Ralston’s fearless, and he’s not afraid to lose access to newsmakers. Instead, he has the wisdom and experience to realize that his TV show, Las Vegas Sun column and daily e-newsletter force reluctant politicians, business executives and community leaders to appear when summoned. If not, they’ll lose control of their message and face the wrath of Ralston, who’s never shy about ripping those who fail to appear on his program. That said, don’t ever doubt the knowledge of this Cornell graduate who has an encyclopedic memory of Nevada politics—back to the late ’80s, at least. He’s also the beneficiary of a first-rate TV producer, Dana Gentry, who’s equally knowledgeable and possibly even tougher.
Best Person to Lead the City Into the Future
You. That’s right: You. If you really live here, stop listing your Facebook hometown as the place you came from. If someone asks you where you’re from, stop saying somewhere else. You’re a Nevadan, a Southern Nevadan, and it’s time for you to get involved. Stop complaining about the way things are done here. Quit lamenting “the lack of community.” You have the power to get involved in a community that’s crying out for greater involvement, to help those in need or speak up at meetings or help set the agenda for this region. This isn’t Chicago or Boston where families dominate because of generational ties that reach back 100-plus years. This is a region of opportunity—even in these very difficult economic times—and there’s a seat at the table for a wide range of people, newcomers and old-timers. You simply have to want it. So turn off the TV. Close the laptop. Get to know your neighbors. Share your concerns. Attend a meeting or two. And speak up. At the very least, finally go down to the DMV and get a set of Nevada plates. While you’re there, register to vote.