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LAS VEGAS — Carolyn G. Goodman was sworn in as Las Vegas mayor July 6, 2011 with her husband, and previous Vegas mayor, Oscar Goodman administering the oath of office. It was the only known instance of a wife succeeding her husband as a mayor in the United States and came about after Carolyn won 60 percent of the vote to succeed her husband who was limited to 12 years in office because of term limits. Both Goodman’s, who have been married for more than 50 years and have four children, arrived in Las Vegas in 1964 with a total of $87 in their pockets. Oscar became a successful criminal case lawyer, while Carolyn completed a master’s degree in counseling while raising their four children. Before becoming mayor, she was well-known in the community for founding The Meadows School in 1984. It was Nevada’s first nonprofit, nonsectarian, independent, coeducational, college preparatory school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
How are you doing today as Las Vegas’ newest mayor?
I couldn’t be better. Life is beautiful here. Now I know why my husband was the happiest mayor in the universe aside from everything I was doing at home to keep him the happiest mayor. This is a wonderful job.
So you are obviously enjoying it ?
I am absolutely enjoying it 1000 percent.
So you and your husband should be the happiest couple in the world because you sound exactly like him. When Oscar was going to have to leave office because of term limits, were you anticipating the follow up?
Absolutely not. I had just spent 27 years in a job full time developing an educational institution. And I thought in June of 2010 I was going to retire and clean out a house we’d lived in 37 years and then travel and spend time with my children, grandchildren and when he (Oscar) retired we would have had time together.
But as we started to wind down and I started to think with him that so much had been accomplished and there was so much vision and the great future was right there. Other people who were running for the office were most well intended. But they hadn’t sat side by side with him (Oscar) for 12 years and or really understood the issues because we have lived in this community for 47 years and knew what the next steps would be for it. Rightly so, they (candidates) possibly would have done something in their own image and taken it off the track it was on. So at the last minute I kept arguing with myself: these are reasons to run and these are reasons not to. Not until the final week for filing, that Wednesday morning when I woke, I knew what I had to do.
Did name recognition put you over the top of the field?
Without question. But I’m more collaborative. With children, especially more than one, you know you have to mediate and bring everybody to consensus. And Oscar is more this explosion of energy and concept. But he’s very much out there. I’m more of an under the radar type and both of us adore the community and love Las Vegas. We were accused of establishing a dynasty and I laughed. Whoever made that accusation, well, we’ve got four children and six grandchildren so talk about a dynasty and we’re ready.
Going back to the days of the famous Rat Pack, are you kind of the quiet Joey Bishop to your husband’s out-going Frank Sinatra?
We do a lot of entertainment speaking and everybody always says we’re much like George Burns and Gracie Allen. I’m not sure which is Gracie Allen though. But anyway, we do feed off each other and have a wonderful time. And again, too, if my name were what I do goes unnoticed I don’t have a problem with it. I just want to get it done. I love the people and I love the community and this is not about me. This is about this city and bringing it to its rightful level of developing a great city with great medical care, research, tourism, sports — all the ingredients that make a great city. So the seeds are sown and we’ve already seen some of the results of that. But all of that needs to continue to grow and it really is not, in my opinion, about me. I’m not that type of person.
What shape is the Las Vegas economy in, particularly in construction?
I can’t speak for the entire southern Nevada county area. You can put your arms around the heartbeat of this city where there is construction. We have just exploded down here to the point where every day I’m seeing people interested in coming into our state and investing. There’s huge interest and enormous vitality in this city and there is an infusion of money and people. People are having fun. There are just so many small places being redone. There’s just vitality in town in the city proper. Yes there’s been overbuilding and there are buildings that are being held by banks or private companies. But a trip downtown is still just awesome.
The Stardust, one of my favorite old-timers was torn down and now a gaping hole is all that is left to show for it. Why?
You know what I think is that the people who were running the different hotels and the tourism out in that area, they had no foresight in what was going to happen to the economy and I’m sure they were ready to move to the next step to build. But when the economy slumped and continued that ride downhill, knowing that tourism would be affected they just got out where they could.
Education has been a high priority for you. Why?
Keep in mind education is not in the purview of the mayor, but it takes the bully pulpit to speak to it. I believe that certainly all classes, if we all were educated fairly and well we wouldn’t have the problems that we have in society today such as wars and conflicts because people would be well educated and therefore would be more accepting of others. We are losing businesses because of the state of public education here. But we have a new superintendent who should help turn things around. I think education is at the basic to everything that succeeds. Everywhere.
There was a certain testiness between your husband, along with Sen. Harry Reid, about comments President Obama made that suggested avoiding Las Vegas. What were your thoughts?
I was offended by the comment because we take it personally because it affects our tourism. That’s our lifeblood. President Obama, from my perspective, should have probably immediately followed up, with it’s simply Las Vegas. What I mean is he could have said you should be cautious with your dollars. Take care of your basic obligations first. I thought that’s what he was really going to say. Give us a plug. That’s all he needed to do.
Would you have rather seen a President Hillary Clinton than a President Obama?
I want somebody who’s capable. I want a unifier. I find what’s been going on in government very offensive. What’s going on in Washington is, in my opinion, awful.
Your husband was, and is, famous for being surrounded with Vegas showgirls. Are you going to switch over to, say, Chippendales’ performers?
I am looking at a neon frame with lovely showgirls. They’re beautiful and very educated, Chippendales, while they look sort of good to me, they’re not made of Las Vegas. And, no, I don’t have showgirls.
My husband is the most enjoyable human being and so bright and so much fun. Sometimes he gets caught up with himself and then he puts his foot in mouth. And I’m home before him and I don’t say a word and he knows what he’s done. This is his passion like mine – the city. We’re going to do the best we can to make it moving forward and make it all it can be.