Former Commissioner Weekly Calls Situation In Washington 'Heartbreaking'
After more than 13 years as a county commissioner, Lawrence Weekly is termed out and moving on.
He oversaw District D, which covers the Historic Westside and parts of North Las Vegas.
And starting this week, he has in a new role as chief of staff and director of diversity for the College of Southern Nevada.
KNPR's State of Nevada talked to Weekly while pro-Trump extremists took over the Capitol Building. He called the situation "heartbreaking."
He also pointed out the differences between the Black Lives Matter protests in Clark County over the summer and the rally and insurrection in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
“The difference between what we saw here in Clark County compared to what you’re seeing in D.C., is that here in Clark County you saw a diverse group of people. It was diversity at its finest," he said.
Weekly said the protests over the summer were about a diverse group of people coming together to say enough is enough. He said it was about love conquering hate.
“What you’re seeing in D.C. is just pure hate. You don’t see any diversity that’s happening and what you see being displayed in this country,” he said.
Weekly said people around the world were watching and shaking their heads.
“For this to be happening, it’s embarrassing. It’s disgusting, but it also shows in my opinion, it shows another side of America that this could be tolerated,” he said.
Weekly has served Southern Nevada for 20 years. First as a member of the Las Vegas City Council and then as a member of the Clark County Commission.
His last year in office was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic. Weekly said it was almost like being robbed of his last year; however, he did get a front-row seat to the county's response to the pandemic.
He said sometimes the commission was briefed three times a day by first responders and University Medical Center staff.
“To be able to hear all the horrific stories of lives being lost, to hear, at the end of the day, that we just lost another five lives, we just lost another 10 lives, that was happening right here in our community,” he said.
The county responded to the pandemic by pushing out CARES Act funds to help small businesses stay afloat and unemployed people keep a roof over their heads.
“As a native Nevadan, for a minute I felt terrified, but then, I looked and said, ‘This isn’t just about us this around the country. This is around the world,'" Weekly said.
The former commissioner said the pandemic actually helped with the transition out of office because it had been so different than other years in office.
“Moving out of my office, I thought I was going to have a moment. I’m cool,” he said.
Weekly believes his district is in excellent hands with William McCurdy II in office. He calls the commissioner who replaced him "innovative" and a "visionary."
Weekly was the only African American on the county commission. But he believes the board will evolve and have a more diverse makeup going forward.
“We should be reflective of the community we represent, and I believe it’s going to happen,” he said, “I want it to be one of the most diverse boards in the nation.”
Weekly said he served with some amazing people there were times where he was unhappy about the way some board members responded to issues important to him, particularly during the racial justice protests during the summer.
“I felt like they were not as sensitive as I thought they should have been. I was very upset. I was visibly upset about it because when you’re sitting in a seat like that you don’t just represent yourself, you represent everybody,” he said.
Weekly believed the time called for open hearts and minds from everyone, but he felt some of his fell commissioners did not have either.
He believes it is important to educate people about issues that they may not fully understand or have a lot of exposure to and help them see why that issue is important.
“I don’t make excuses for any of them," he explained, "I just say I got a chance to serve with some great people. There were some times where we agreed and we respectfully disagreed and then there were times where I was just straight out pissed at how I felt their vibe was and I thought they were being a little insensitive when it came to racial issues.”
One part of Weekly's job on the commission that got him into some trouble was as the head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
While on the board, he did not accurately disclose that he used airline gift cards for a trip to Dallas. The incident was connected to a larger scandal involving LVCVA personnel using airline gift cards, which were bought with taxpayer money, for personal use. He was fined $2,000 for the mistake.
“I dropped the ball. I didn’t handle my business in a timely manner and get that on a report and so, yes, that’s what’ happened to me,” he said.
Weekly admitted it was a mistake, but he also pointed out all of the business the LVCVA has brought into the city, especially in the years following the Great Recession.
“This is my city. I’m a native. And the last thing I ever wanted to do was embarrass myself, embarrass my family and embarrass my city.”
Weekly said he takes responsibility for the mistake and is ready to move on.
Looking ahead, Weekly is now working to bring more diversity to the CSN campus faculty and staff. He noted that 70 percent of students at the college are men and women of color but that is not reflected in the faculty and administration of the school.
The biggest hurdle going forward for the college may be overcoming the impacts of the pandemic. Weekly said students are having to choose between paying rent or paying tuition.
But he says the college is already working on solving that problem.
“We have some plans in place to go out here and provide some incentives that hopefully will keep communities motivated and encouraged,” he said.
Weekly said the college's goal is to leave no stone unturned in its effort to recruit, retain and graduate students and the former commissioner is excited to be part of that mission.
Lawrence Weekly, chief of staff and director of diversity, College of Southern Nevada