Staying True in North Las Vegas

North Las Vegas has a problem. Isaac Barron is running for its Ward 1 City Council seat because he thinks he has a solution.

“I’ve heard people say we need to re-brand North Las Vegas,” he says. “I’m not sure what they mean. We are not Green Valley or Henderson, or Boulder City or Las Vegas.

There’s no negative connotation to that. We want people to be able to raise their families here, have a good home and a good job, good parks and schools. I just want to see my city prosper. I can’t change what has been done in the past, but I can help with the future.”

Barron is part of North Las Vegas’ past and future. He grew up there, went to Rancho High School and now has taught there for 15 years.

For most of that time, he has advised the Hispanic Student Union, trying to enhance his students’ awareness and inviting all kinds of people to address them. In 2010, one speaker, Sharron Angle, said some of them looked “a little more Asian to me.” Barron knows his city and its people better than that.

Barron’s father came from Chihuahua, Mexico, as a bracero, recruited to work in the U.S. He eventually got a job at Nellis Air Force Base and stayed here. Barron grew up in the heart of North Las Vegas, near North Fifth and Carey—“one of the very best places to grow up,” he says—in an ethnically mixed neighborhood. After graduating from UNLV and teaching briefly in Winnemucca, he returned to his roots, to teach and be involved.

“I’m definitely a community organizer, a community activist, and I’m going into this with that frame of mind,” he says. “I saw what an impact people can make on the community as volunteers, so it was very natural to me to lead these students to do every kind of fund-raiser and activity we could think of, from aid to earthquake victims in Guatemala to food drives in our city, an adopt-a-grandparent program at local senior centers, campus cleanups, and going out and reading to kids in surrounding schools. I’ve realized what an effect that has.”

Barron also knows that if he wants to effect lasting change, being a community organizer is only part of the equation. “I also have to shift gears and become a politician,” he said. “We need to restore services that improve the quality of life—code enforcement, make sure our parks are maintained, graffiti abatement.”

Meanwhile, he emphasizes the need for North Las Vegas and its government to attract and keep businesses. He talks about a man who tried to open a restaurant and gave up due to all of the red tape. “I’m hoping to do everything I can to make sure that the regulations are streamlined.”

He also wants North Las Vegas to be true to itself. He calls Ward 1, which hugs Interstate 15 and wanders from beyond the beltway to the corner of Pecos and Owens, “the pick of the litter. It’s the historic part of town, a nice area, and the future looks fantastic. There’s all of this commercial land near I-15. Toyota talked about a plant near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The key is that we’re going to need infrastructure, so I’m looking forward to working with local, state and national leaders to help develop the ward. It’s going to be the future of our city. We’re never going to have a strip of high-rise casinos. We’re a working-class town, hard-working people, and having an industrial base fits us perfectly.”

Barron is running for the council against three other candidates. His opponents include fellow Southern Nevada native Jared Hardy, the son of a former councilman and brother of a former state legislator. Barron has a great deal of Democratic support, while Hardy’s family has been active in the GOP—a reminder that there’s no such thing as a nonpartisan race. But their involvement also reminds us that some local kids make good—and stay here to try to do good.