Adam Buehler, 25, moved to Reno’s Ward 1 in the summertime of 2018 to take a job in Northern Nevada’s burgeoning tech trade. He selected his residence based mostly on its proximity to Midtown and its location inside strolling distance of The Eddy, a beer backyard and outside house close to the Riverwalk District.

“Once I moved right here, my private aim was to have the ability to stroll to The Eddy, so this match,” the previous Ohioan stated with fun.

The ward encompasses various neighborhoods and identities — outdated and new Reno, historic neighborhoods and a modernizing enterprise district, new residents like Buehler looking for distinctive leisure alternatives and long-time residents hoping to take care of the character of a metropolis they love. 

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus poses for a photograph close to Ward 1’s Riverside Stroll (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

The tight race on this various ward was determined in favor of the incumbent, Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus, by simply 82 votes — one which residents, students and policymakers say was outlined by contrasts in management kinds and differing views on builders’ roles in native governance.

In the course of the main election campaigns, Buehler stated he heard about Brekhus’ status as somebody who was typically tough to work with and solid his poll for Britton Griffith, vice chairman of her household’s growth agency, Reno Engineering Company, whose insurance policies he stated he appreciated.

After Griffith didn’t make it previous the first, although, Buehler stated he began receiving an awesome variety of mailings from each Brekhus and her challenger, actual property agent J.D. Drakulich, with a mean of 1 to 2 a day throughout the top of the marketing campaign.

Actual property agent J.D. Drakulich stands for a portrait close to his residence in Ward 1 (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

A majority of the mail items Buehler obtained got here from Drakulich. Some had been assault items with one containing a guidelines documenting situations when Brekhus was combative throughout a gathering, made it tough to get by an agenda merchandise as a result of she saved asking observe up questions, or elevated rigidity on the council.

One mailing that stood out to Buehler was one about Drakulich’s stance on Reno’s homeless disaster. Buehler stated the pamphlet was the explanation he nearly voted for Drakulich, however when he started wanting into the candidate’s marketing campaign funding, he seen that Drakulich had obtained many marketing campaign donations from actual property builders, a few of which got here from out of state.

Buehler stated he noticed a disconnect between a candidate claiming he was attempting to scale back native homelessness and taking cash from high-end actual property builders.

“I assumed it was essential for this, notably as a result of Reno’s housing market is increasing extremely shortly and there is clearly some huge cash to be made,” Buehler stated. “Having a Metropolis Council member who’s clearly going to profit from high-end housing insurance policies I do not assume is an efficient state of affairs for Reno to be in.”

Drakulich’s intention to maintain working as an actual property agent whereas holding a Metropolis Council place was another excuse Buehler determined to solid his poll for Brekhus, despite the fact that he nonetheless had qualms about her.

“On the finish of the day, their jobs are to get issues executed locally so in the event that they’re being exhausting to work with, much less goes to get executed,” Buehler stated. “And I feel that can also be not good for the group.”

Sustaining checks and balances

Buehler’s dilemma about who to vote for illustrates the nail-biting nature of a race that was solely referred to as after Washoe County commissioners canvassed the votes. It is an consequence supporters heralded as a victory for independence and accountability on a council they are saying usually acts in live performance with particular pursuits, however one which critics bemoaned as sustaining a combative presence on the council that would hinder wanted growth and progress.

“I feel that that [the Ward 1] race got here down an excellent deal to differing perceptions of the extent of energy and affect being exerted by actual property builders and their associates over native politics and growth,” stated Alicia Barber, a historian and scholar whose work focuses on the cultural geography of Nevada and the American West.

Scenes from Ward 1’s Riverside neighborhood and parks. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

Barber identified that Ward 1 accommodates a few of oldest, most historic neighborhoods within the metropolis, each business and residential, making the ward center-stage in battles over house and the way the town will or won’t shift to accommodate new industries and residents.

Everybody who was watching the Ward 1 race knew it might be shut, stated Mike Kazmierski, the president and CEO of the Financial Growth Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), a company targeted on attracting and retaining thriving companies and high quality jobs within the Reno-Sparks space.

Brekhus’ pointed inquiries and typically important views draw some public assist but additionally are inclined to make it tough for builders to get a mission authorized with out very detailed work, he stated.

“[Drakulich] is extra of a, we’d like housing, the group wants housing … so we wish to be as a group, working with our builders in a extra constructive manner,” Kazmierski stated. “[Brekhus] has been identified to be the lone no vote on many, lots of the votes that are inclined to happen, even after many hours, oftentimes of answering and getting her suggestions and questions, which has prompted the council to be much less constructive.”  

Photos of Idlewild park and group inside Reno’s Ward 1 boundary. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

Drakulich stated he ran as a result of he believed he had a greater really feel for the heartbeat of the ward than Brekhus, and he hoped to assist make Reno the kind of city wherein his seven-year-old son would finally wish to increase a household.

The 38-year-old actual property agent who has deep ties to the city and graduated from Reno Excessive Faculty ran his first marketing campaign on a platform geared towards addressing homelessness, a problem he says he cares about after serving for 4 years as a board member of the Eddy Home, a middle offering help to homeless individuals, runaway foster youngsters and different at-risk youth ages 12-24 in Northern Nevada.

Drakulich included his household in his marketing campaign, emphasised the significance of group interactions and stated that Brekhus’ antagonism harm her relationships with different council members and by extension, Ward 1 voters.

“I consider she wasn’t collaborative sufficient. And that is not solely along with her fellow elected officers, however different individuals locally,” he stated. “Enterprise house owners in West Midtown had been very clear: They felt like they did not have a relationship along with her or that they had been being heard. And that comes, as soon as once more, to the collaboration and teamwork perspective.”

Scenes of Ward 1’s weekly motels. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

Although Barber stated she has heard criticism from some native enterprise house owners that Brekhus is “adverse for the sake of being adverse,” she doesn’t consider that could be a truthful characterization of the councilwoman.

Brekhus, an city planner by commerce, usually advocates for sustaining checks and balances. When she asks robust questions or votes in opposition to a mission, she is normally pointing to points that have to be addressed on behalf of residents, Barber stated.

In a small city like Reno, having a dissenting opinion may be seen as a adverse, particularly when it comes from a strong-willed feminine chief, however over-simplifying and streamlining council processes can typically take away much-needed public and knowledgeable evaluate, Barber stated.

“I imply, the factor about [Brekhus] is that you simply’re by no means unclear about her justifications for voting for one thing,” Barber stated. “I feel she just about all the time explains why she’s voting a sure manner.”

Pictures of Ward 1 round Swope Center Faculty in Reno. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

Brekhus’ curiosity in metropolis planning and municipal authorities stemmed from her father’s work as a mayor and council member of Ross, her hometown in Marin County, California. 

Brekhus, 53, remembers tagging alongside along with her father to go to varied properties and being surrounded by discussions about variances and metropolis codes, which prompted her to pursue knowledgeable diploma in metropolis planning.

After graduate college, she labored for 3 cities. Then, beginning in 2011, after she had watched  a slew of metropolis council conferences in Reno, the place she moved in 1998, she realized she wished to make use of her data in a unique capability.

“Sooner or later, it simply clicked: ‘nicely, I do know extra about cities than these people who find themselves Metropolis Council members,’” Brekhus stated.

She was first elected in 2012 with the aim of restoring the town’s fiscal well-being and creating a grasp plan to information Reno’s progress and funding.

Brekhus acknowledged that in her time on the council she has been a fiscal conservative and says when she’s approaching points, she’s all the time seeking to the longevity of the town and the wants of her ward.

“I am not all the time proper, and I do not get satisfaction from [dissenting],” Brekhus stated. “However there’s only a few of these votes that I might take again.”

Outreach to voters

In a marketing campaign season formed by a world pandemic, Brekhus and Drakulich needed to resort to various marketing campaign outreach methods in a ward the place residents are used to being courted with door knocks and in-depth conversations.

Drakulich and Brekhus stated they fearful that the reliance upon flyers and pamphlets meant voters didn’t have the chance to ask questions or share ideas.

Drakulich, who hails from a high-profile Reno household, mounted a well-funded marketing campaign throughout a time when Metropolis Council members had been going through criticism for his or her dealing with of the coronavirus and of race-related tensions in addition to a number of different points.

However incumbency has a endurance that may be tough to beat, particularly if residents are unfamiliar with the challenger — and on this case, most couldn’t converse with Drakulich in-person due to his adherence to COVID-19 restrictions.

Picture of a pair strolling alongside the Truckee River in Ward 1. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

Brekhus, who has traditionally relied upon door-knocking and face-to-face contact to share details about her platform and listen to from voters, stated she started dropping marketing campaign literature at totally different homes, but it surely was a poor substitute for in-person conversations.

“You might cowl about 5 occasions as a lot territory, as many doorways, in a single outing, however you talked to fewer individuals,” Brekhus stated. “You were not having as many contacts however you had been protecting extra doorways, however I feel on the finish it wasn’t as efficient.”

Drakulich echoed an identical sentiment. He started knocking on doorways final November and famous that whereas he visited nearly 2,000 houses earlier than COVID-19 restrictions shut down alternatives for in-person contact, the shortage of in-person connection harm his marketing campaign.

“[Communicating with voters], you earn the appropriate to truly symbolize these individuals since you’ve heard them, you’ve got requested them. It’s not about them seeing me on social media, but it surely’s about them being nose to nose with me, telling them what’s essential and listening,” Drakulich stated.

On Election Day, each candidates visited voting websites in Reno, waving indicators and chatting with constituents.

Scenes from Election Day at Reno Excessive Faculty, inside Ward 1 on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

As for marketing campaign funding, Kazmierski stated practically each candidate will obtain funding assist from builders, though that does not imply the candidate will enact each developer’s whim.

“I do not know any that haven’t taken cash from builders. I imply, you need to have funding to do your campaigning. Builders are a part of that,” he stated.

Heading into the race, Brekhusk knew Drakulich can be tough to beat, Adam Czajkowski, Brekhus’ marketing campaign supervisor and a political marketing consultant in Reno, stated. If Drakulich had run in a unique ward in opposition to a unique opponent, the result would seemingly have been in his favor, Czajkowski posited.

Nevertheless, Brekhus’ campaign-funding technique together with her dedication to looking for a majority of small donors and offering constituent providers helped give her an edge, Czajkowski stated.

“On many, many points there was not a number of daylight between [Brekhus] and [Drakulich],” he stated. “However I feel on the finish of the day, builders versus neighborhood activists might be the most important dichotomy.”

An amalgamation of neighborhoods and opinions

One of many key components within the race was the altering demographics of Washoe County, and by extension, Ward 1.

In a presentation in November, Brian Bonnenfant, a researcher at UNR’s Heart for Regional Research, famous that the county’s inhabitants grew about 2 p.c from 2018 to 2019 and is projected to develop 2 p.c in 2020, with most incoming migration coming from different components of Nevada, in addition to from Asia and California. The vast majority of those that just lately moved from exterior Washoe County fell between the ages of 20 and 34 years outdated, he stated.

Kazmierski and others famous that inside Ward 1, the age breakdown (and due to this fact considerations of residents) tended to be geographically linked by neighborhood.

The older Southwest and Newlands group in Ward 1, that includes bigger, older and dearer houses, accommodates a large bloc of voters who wish to preserve Reno the way in which it was and who typically lean towards the anti-growth a part of the political spectrum, Kazmierski stated.

Scenes from the Older Southwest a part of Ward 1 in Reno. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

As compared, individuals residing throughout the extra newly developed parts of Midtown and a number of the ward’s downtown areas are a few of locations the place the technology-based workforce lives and are extra enthusiastic about progress, he added.

Scenes from Midtown inside Ward 1 in Reno. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

Czajkowski stated that despite the fact that Metropolis Council races are nonpartisan, lots of the races fall alongside partisan traces — and the nearer somebody is to the Virginia Road hall and I-80 within the western a part of Ward 1, the extra seemingly a voter will lean Democratic.

He added that the suburban and Caughlin Ranch space voters are inclined to lean extra conservatively, however no matter the place they stay, most voters within the ward don’t tolerate “extremism” or “weirdness,” and are primarily targeted on core providers corresponding to fireplace and police.

Scenes from Ward 1’s Caughlin Ranch space in Reno. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

From his communications with voters and door knocking, Drakulich stated that West Midtown typically options youthful, extra progressive voters, and the Southwest, with a number of character and outdated Reno aptitude, hosts extra conventional Reno residents.

Scenes from areas of West Reno inside Ward 1. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

Within the newer components of the Southwest, Drakulich stated he met youthful households eager to be inside sure college zones, lots of whom had been first-time householders with a way of pleasure and possession locally.

New tech corporations haven’t but formed the panorama of the town in the identical manner because the on line casino trade did, Barber stated, emphasizing that understanding the historic material and demographic make-up of a ward or district is crucial for candidates seeking to perceive the views and wishes of voters. 

A map showing local development from 1868-1928 and color coded by the year it was developed shows that some of Reno's most historic structures and neighborhoods are located in Ward 1, Barber said. The brown pentagon shape in the middle was the original 1868 plat map, and then it expanded outward, making preservation a key issue in the ward.
A map displaying native growth from 1868-1928 and colour coded by growth 12 months exhibits that a few of Reno’s most historic buildings and neighborhoods are situated in Ward 1, Barber stated. The brown pentagon form within the center was the unique 1868 plat map, after which it expanded outward, making preservation a key difficulty within the ward. (Map courtesy of Alicia Barber)

In a query about historic preservation posed throughout a That is Reno Ward 1 candidate discussion board, Barber stated that the 2 candidates’ responses could have formed how voters solid a poll — particularly voters residing throughout the ward’s extra historic neighborhoods.

Whereas Brekhus mentioned the complexities of balancing preservation with growth and recognizing the function historic buildings play in revealing group character and the way they can be utilized to assist impartial enterprise together with different components, Drakulich pivoted the dialogue to deal with the necessity for added housing and streamlining the method for brand new developments, Barber stated.

“I might think about that [Brekhus’] assist for historic preservation as one part of accountable metropolis growth seemingly rings true for a lot of who stay in her ward,” Barber stated. 

A ‘political unicorn’

As Brekhus heads into her final time period as a metropolis councilwoman, she stated she’s nicely conscious of a number of the characterizations of her and the way she’s voted, however wanting again, she wouldn’t change lots of her dissenting votes.

“I do not take it personally. I do not imply it personally … I am not doing, and I cannot do, relationship and transactional politics. I simply will not,” she stated. “It must be a really collective decision-making foundation on what’s in my coronary heart, fiscally finest for the town, equitably finest for our inhabitants and finest long run. “

Brekhus’ marketing campaign supervisor characterised Brekhus as a “political unicorn” who doesn’t vote for a particular crew or get together. He stated that Brekhus appealed to voters who solid a poll for Devon Reese within the at-large race and people who selected his opponent, Eddie Lorton — two candidates with totally different political leanings and opposing views of how a metropolis needs to be ruled. 

There have been Joe Biden supporters who voted for Drakulich and vice versa, and although many prefer to attempt to place Brekhus in a field, that’s simply not potential, Czajkowski stated. 

“[Brekhus] goes to disagree with even her most staunch supporters on a minimum of two or three points,” Czajkowski stated.

He added that Brekhus’ planning background drives her fiscal conservatism however that she additionally supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in his presidential bid.

“There is not any Democratic manner or Republican method to fill a pothole,” Czajkowski stated. “I feel lots of people need that readability that claims, ‘Hey look you are in my tribe,’ and [Brekhus] gained’t give those that.”

Builders work on a roof in a house inside Ward 1. (David Calvert/The Nevada Unbiased)

As for Drakulich, he stated he’s nonetheless mulling the result of the race, however he’s dedicated to persevering with to contribute to Reno by volunteer work with the youth homeless outreach program at Eddy Home and hopefully becoming a member of a number of the council’s citizen teams and advisory boards.

He stated he’s nonetheless receiving calls from residents he linked with throughout the marketing campaign course of and desires to serve the ward in no matter capability he can.

“I will not be sitting on the sidelines for the following 4 years,” Drakulich stated.