Managing a sports bar as county commissioner with Cassie Hall (S3E19)

We especially like talking with new and young political leaders, Cassie Hall, a county commissioner in Mineral County Nevada is already getting immersed in state and local politics. Listen to how she has already connected with other leaders to improve things in her home county.

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Cassie Hall: I am working on creating a more proactive government in my area. I am working on really developing and embracing what community means. I don’t feel that there’s a place for party politics at the county level because we all have the same needs and there’s nothing to argue about. I am living among working among my constituency. If it impacts me, it impacts them.

And you know, with that, we’re talking economy, we’re talking gas prices, we’re talking food prices. And that’s an important issue for everyone right now. Right. The most important thing is, is about the time management and keeping myself in check that way and making sure that I incorporate ways for people to have access to me.

David Martin: Welcome to The Good Government Show. I’m Dave Martin. And you’re about to hear my conversation with one of the youngest county commissioners. We met at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, and that’s Cassie Hall. She’s the chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Mineral County, Nevada. We always like talking with young people in new people in government.

And she’s in her third year as county commissioner, and she’s already gotten involved beyond Mineral County. She’s a member of NATO’s Opioid Solutions Leadership Network. That connects her with a Nevada central health district, Naco and Mineral County’s own public health department that allows her to help assess opioid needs in her county and in her region, and provides her home county with resources and expertise beyond just Mineral County.

And she’s also on the executive committee of the Nevada Association of Counties. So a quick word about Mineral County. This is a pretty rural county, in fact, in terms of population, fourth smallest in the state of Nevada. It’s located on the California border. It’s closer to Reno, but it’s not quite halfway between Las Vegas and Reno. But that’s about where it is.

It’s in the Nevada desert. But the Sierra Nevada mountains are visible from downtown Hawthorne, and that’s the Mineral County’s largest town. So now get ready for my conversation with Cassie Hall. Mineral County commissioner. That’s coming up after this short break.

The good government show is sponsored by NACO. That’s the National Association of Counties. County Government is actually the oldest form of government in the United States, and it touches more people directly. Roads, highways, hospitals, schools, recycling law enforcement, water and sewers. In most of the country, those services are maintained by the county that’s county government. Naco is a nationwide organization that represents all 3069 counties across the U.S. Naco helps county government work better together through things like sharing best practices.

Because when county government works well, well, that’s just good government.

Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m Dave Martin. And you are Cassie Hall. If you introduce yourself to our listeners, where are you from and what’s your title as well?

Cassie Hall: Good morning. I’m Cassie Hall. I am the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners in Mineral County, Nevada. We are a small county, about 5000 constituents in my in my region, only about five communities. And we are 2 hours south of Reno, 5 hours north of Vegas and an hour from Yosemite.

David Martin: And I just asked you this. I’m going to ask it again. What is in a mineral come from.

Cassie Hall: Mining, of course. Yes. As we discussed, gold was prevalent. And and, of course, it’s Nevada. It’s a silver state. So that was at one time a pretty hot topic as well.

David Martin: Are there old mining towns that are abandoned in your county?

Cassie Hall: We do. Have we off highway vehicles are a pretty hot topic in our area so that you can go out and explore some of those areas. But I don’t have a lot of time to do those things. So I’m not the region expert on this.

David Martin: Okay, But they’re out there.

Cassie Hall: So they absolutely are. We do have a lot of history in our region.

David Martin: Yeah. And what’s unique about Mineral County, where you are, you’re sort of halfway between, I think, Reno to the north and Vegas to the south.

Cassie Hall: Yes, you do have to go through my county and my community to to get to either one of those places. If you’re driving through Nevada and we are linked to, like I said, we’re about an hour from Yosemite, so you can get darn near anywhere, see anything within a day’s drive. So like I mentioned it to us, it’s the best of all worlds.

David Martin: And why is it the best of all worlds? What makes it so wonderful?

Cassie Hall: 2 hours away. You can get on an airplane and go anywhere you want to. Yeah, but where we are is rural enough that you experience the best of small town living.

David Martin: So what’s going on in in Mineral County these days? What were the issues you’re working on?

Cassie Hall: I am working on creating a more proactive government in my area. I am working on really developing and embracing what community means.

David Martin: And you, your recently elected, this is your second year starting a third year in office. What made you decide to run?

Cassie Hall: Well, they say you can either complain about it or you can get involved. And so it was kind of one of those situations.

David Martin: Okay, what are you going to complain about?

Cassie Hall: I wasn’t complaining.

David Martin: Well, you got but you got to evolve.

Cassie Hall: As as we discussed, I am a business owner as well. And so there were a lot of things that I felt were not being addressed as needs of the business owner. And some of the things I’m trying to help create in that environment are like grant programs to help supplement some of the costs that infrastructure needs, like plumbing changes, you know, so that as a community is and the county is upgrading their infrastructure, sometimes that means we have to upgrade to stay up to code.

Yeah, for the small businesses and those are some pretty big hit sometimes that are not really sustainable. So I’m trying to help develop a grant program at this time to help offset the cost of some of those things.

David Martin: Now before we turn the recording on and you said a couple of things that I thought were interesting. Party politics are not your favorite two words.

Cassie Hall: Well, it’s not a matter of not liking it. I just I don’t feel that there’s a place for party politics at the county level because we all have the same needs and there’s nothing to argue about.

David Martin: But so much of the voters certainly are one party or the other. How are you able to sort of I don’t know if you can say stay above the fray, but separate yourself, I guess, from from party and politics and the idea of politics.

Cassie Hall: I really haven’t had too much trouble with it. It was I do hear frequently that it is unusual that I unseated a Republican in a Republican county.

David Martin: And it was your message as well.

Cassie Hall: I think it was kind of a I’m one of you is is kind of what was popular, but it was an unusual campaign as well. It was.

David Martin: Also.

Cassie Hall: It was during COVID. I didn’t have to knock on doors and I didn’t get to kiss any babies. And, you know, that’s what they say. Politics is, right?

David Martin: You own a restaurant in town.

Cassie Hall: I do.

David Martin: What’s it called?

Cassie Hall: Well, I just closed one. That was Joe’s Tavern. We have Barley Sports bar and Mr. Bean’s coffee shop.

David Martin: Okay. Now, as a restaurateur, I would imagine you meet a good, good number of you do? Yeah. Is that do you find that’s helpful? Yeah.

Cassie Hall: I do. I I’m often functioning in a role where they’re not looking at me as a county administrator. Yeah. Or an authoritarian type of role. They’re looking at me as service. And to me, that’s what county government should be. It’s just about the public service aspect of it. So that is what I take to heart.

David Martin: Are you do you get feedback every time you go to your place?

Cassie Hall: Absolutely.

David Martin: Is that good?

Cassie Hall: Most of the time, yeah. I really I have not had I know I’m new in the scheme of things. I know I’m new, but I guess that’s the benefit too of a smaller community. I mean, you see, they’re all better, it’s all good. And at this point it’s been mostly pleasant as far as my life, or at least things that I can handle.

And I guess that comes from your shifting.

David Martin: From pleasant to things I could handle. Yeah, okay.

Cassie Hall: Because I don’t shy away from a challenge, and I guess that’s why I’ve been able to find a home in this arena.

David Martin: Two years in. Is it what you expected it was going to be? Is it harder than you thought it was going to be? Is it easier than I thought it was going to be?

Cassie Hall: Those are not good definitions.

David Martin: All right.

Cassie Hall: It is more time consuming than I thought it was going to be. Yeah, I definitely expected it to be a challenge right. I think what I expected was more of just the fiscal oversight aspect of things.

David Martin: Okay.

Cassie Hall: What I have found and what I am thankful for Nico for is I have found networking. I have found that a lot of it is it’s who, you know, not what you know, because and that’s a good thing. Because I have found that it’s all about connecting with people who are smarter than me so that I can I’m not going to know the answer to all the questions, especially being kind of the new kid on the block.

And I didn’t come into this role with a lot of county government experience in terms of I didn’t I worked in the district attorney’s office at one point, but that’s you know, you’re not you’re not a clerk in that respect. You’re not a recorder auditor, deputy, any of those types of. Yeah, I didn’t know a lot as far as the inner workings other than just being a citizen.

And so I lost my train of thought. But being newer.

David Martin: You know, just, you know, now that you had the job for two.

Cassie Hall: Years, right.

David Martin: Kind of assessing, is it is this something you think you want to stay with?

Cassie Hall: I absolutely do, yeah. But what I found being newer is that that actually worked to my advantage. I was able to come in with a clean slate and a and a positive perspective of because what if there’s anything negative to say about my area is that we very much get stuck in this mindset of how we’ve always done things.

Yeah, we don’t want to do that. We don’t like change. We, we’ve never done it that way before. There’s a lot of that, but I very much don’t think that way.

David Martin: And are there older council or I’m sorry, commissioners and members that maybe aren’t as excited about having a newer, younger person in.

Cassie Hall: Yes, I’m going to just go ahead and say yes, I know I’m not everyone’s favorite, but it’s it hasn’t been a detriment. It’s been a positive. I work very well with my board. We do have a new a newer just came in in January. Yeah. But everyone that I.

David Martin: Work for not the new kid anymore.

Cassie Hall: Well I am still because both of the gentlemen on my board have worked for Monroe County in one capacity or another over the last 20, 30 years.

David Martin: Okay, well, now that you’re a government insider, we’re going to go to our questionnaire. We’re going to get you your real insight, your philosophy on government. Are you.

Cassie Hall: Ready? I’m ready.

David Martin: Are you ready? What is good government to you? Do you find it?

Cassie Hall: Leadership, accountability, listening. And yes, I think it is as simple as bullet points. Keeping the parties the partizan semantics out of it.

David Martin: That’s good government.

Cassie Hall: Yes.

David Martin: All right. How do you know that you’re being effective? What do you use for yourself as your sort of yardstick for your success if you’re having success?

Cassie Hall: Well, there’s you know, the first thing that pops into my head is, you know, there isn’t really at least in my area, there’s yes, there are demographic differences, but it’s not like there’s a class system. Yeah, I am living among working among my constituency. If it impacts me, it impacts them. And you know, we’re talking economy, we’re talking gas prices, we’re talking food prices.

And that’s an important issue for everyone right now. Right.

David Martin: So how do you.

Cassie Hall: Measure.

David Martin: Accountable, though? How do you hold yourself accountable?

Cassie Hall: Who I guess the most important thing is, is about the time management and keeping myself in check that way and making sure that I incorporate ways for people to have access to me.

David Martin: Okay.

Cassie Hall: For example, I’m starting a new program because I, I don’t feel like people, even with the way that we are so quote unquote connected these days. Yeah, I don’t feel like people are taking advantage of the things that are available to them to get their voices heard even just by me. So I’m starting a smaller version of a town hall and calling it Community Conversations where I’m going to open our convention center once a month, hopefully once a month.

It may be a little less often, but I give them the opportunity to come and speak to me one on one, bring their concerns, because people don’t come to our board meetings.

David Martin: They don’t.

Cassie Hall: They don’t.

David Martin: Yeah.

Cassie Hall: They complain on Facebook and things like that. But that’s that’s not a conversation.

David Martin: Well, you said, you know, people you’re going to have a meeting once a month where people can come and talk to you. Are there any other ways that people should hold your voters? The people in your district should hold you accountable?

Cassie Hall: Well, of course. I mean, it ultimately comes down to the election. Right. And I guess we’ll see if if I am reelected.

David Martin: Whether you run for reelection.

Cassie Hall: I have two more.

David Martin: Year.

Cassie Hall: Yes, two years. Yeah.

David Martin: All right. How are you feeling?

Cassie Hall: So far, so good. But I guess I will really be taking that temperature at these community conversations. And and hopefully I do get a good, fair representation of what my communities are are feeling. But at this point, I feel like I have a pretty good rapport with at least a smattering of a representation from each one of the towns in my county.

And I think that they feel heard at this point. They know they can contact me directly and any time that that has taken place, I if I don’t know the answer, like I mentioned, I have learned to keep people around me that are smarter than me so I can get it fixed.

David Martin: If people feel like they’re not getting good government, if they’re not getting answers, what should they do?

Cassie Hall: Take it to the next level.

David Martin: Find what are you? Well, where? How?

Cassie Hall: If they don’t feel they’re being heard at my at my level, at the county level, then they take it to the state level and then they take it to the to our national representatives. And that does happen upon occasion, but mostly when since I’ve been around, I’m going with them like I am here in Washington, D.C. this week, and I am going to meet with my national representation.

And I did bring some topics from home with me.

David Martin: And what can you share?

Cassie Hall: Well, we do have a kind of a a land issue in our area. We are a county, so a big part of our budget is a payment in lieu of taxes. But we have a little bit of a contested area, not contested, but the Navy wants to take some of and has taken some of our county to expand the felony range training complex, which we are in support of.

But losing some of our acreage will also negatively impact our but our budget. Okay. So that’s not a positive thing. So we need to kind of work that up a little bit.

David Martin: All right. What would you like people now that you’ve been a county commissioner for two years, what would you like people to know about how government works?

Cassie Hall: It only works if you work it. It only works if you get involved with it. Well, in my community, a lot of our frustration as the leaders is the lack of involvement. And I, I guess that is really the only negative, if you will, experience that I’ve had is is the lack of involvement and just really want them to understand it.

Do your voice.

David Martin: And how would you like to see them involved?

Cassie Hall: That’s a very broad. I’m I am working on a lot of different ways that they can be, whether that’s, you know, advisory boards or everything from our cemetery board to, you know, our recreation board, just the advisory groups that they can be involved in to where their voices can actually be heard. There are a lot of programs and and things to do, just work to be done.

It’s exhausting.

David Martin: And exhausting.

Cassie Hall: Yeah, I know that a lot of people in the rural areas especially talk about how they just got the same five people that are the same five volunteers for every right, you know, department, every area. And so we need more people to get involved because we’re burning out our our top resources, and that’s our people.

David Martin: Who is I know you don’t like to be thought of as a politician, but who are your political heroes or who your heroes in government?

Cassie Hall: Hmm?

David Martin: A hero, huh?

Cassie Hall: No, I think I probably know. What I will do is I will take this back. I have very historical heroes. Okay? I don’t. I’m. I stay away from the current affairs because they are such.

David Martin: A.

Cassie Hall: Tale.

David Martin: So in history, you know who. Who is the people that.

Cassie Hall: I have a lot of respect for.

David Martin: Maybe inspired? You know.

Cassie Hall: I have a lot of respect for like it’s interesting because I tend to lean more towards Republican in this way, and that’s probably from my grandfather’s experience. And that would probably be my my biggest hero would be my grandfather. Again, I mentioned he’s a colonel in the Army. Yeah, but he’s very Republican. I have a lot of respect for Reagan and that administration, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice.

There’s just a lot of Republican in my background, but I tend to lean more towards Democrat heroes at this time. Yes, because I really appreciate some of the social issues. The leadership on on that. But I’m not dropping.

David Martin: Okay.

Cassie Hall: All right.

David Martin: So you own a restaurant. You are a restaurateur and have been for some time. What’s your favorite dish? What do you like to serve? What do you like to cook? What do you like to eat?

Cassie Hall: I do not discriminate. The only thing I will not need is spinach or spinach.

David Martin: Right. Well, in your state, what’s what’s the what’s that? Great regional cuisine? What’s a great regional cuisine?

Cassie Hall: A It’s a meat and potatoes area.

David Martin: Yeah.

Cassie Hall: Yeah, yeah. The bigger the burger, the better.

David Martin: All right. What’s the specialty at your place?

Cassie Hall: Uh, wings, pizza, burgers. Okay. It’s American fare.

David Martin: Basic American stuff that’s, like, nothing special. No spread red.

Cassie Hall: White and blue.

David Martin: No.

Cassie Hall: Spinach. I would never put that on my menu. I would not do that to anyone.

David Martin: You really have it on the menu for other people. How about cream? Spanish with steak?

Cassie Hall: No, never.

David Martin: Don’t ever.

Cassie Hall: We had that last night, actually. I said, you keep that on the other side of the table.

David Martin: All right? Okay. All right. I got it. Now, you said, you know, you’re your hero. You said, who is your your your grandfather. The Army colonel was government service or politics or running for office. Something you always thought about?

Cassie Hall: No.

David Martin: No.

Cassie Hall: I guess the extent of it was and I’m still working on it was the plan was always to go to law school.

David Martin: Okay.

Cassie Hall: That was really the what I thought leadership looked like as a child. Yeah. And that’s what he wanted me to do, was go to law school and I still will. You just haven’t quite gotten there. I start. I began my family at a young age and. Yeah, and they’re all almost out of the house now. My youngest is 17.

That’s about to enter his senior year. And then after that I will refocus on my, my finishing my college education. And most of the way through it.

David Martin: You’re, you know.

Cassie Hall: You’re but then and then off to law school.

David Martin: After law school.

Cassie Hall: Wow. That’s kind of the plan.

David Martin: All right. It’s hard to go back to school after, you.

Cassie Hall: Know, I left.

David Martin: School for a while, but.

Cassie Hall: I love school. And I think that’s why I enjoy this arena so much because I learn something new every day.

David Martin: Yeah.

Cassie Hall: I like being surrounded by people. And especially at conferences like this, you meet such a large variety of people in every walk of life, from every culture, from every state across the country, and you always have something in common with them.

David Martin: And from a small county too, to come here and see people from large counties and small counties was a big change.

Cassie Hall: Well, it’s not it’s not terrible, because I do being in the hospitality industry, I’ve been exposed to every walk of life along the way. But and I think that’s what has been it’s been an advantage for me. Yeah. As a quote unquote politician.

David Martin: Good, You almost admitted to being a politician there for a lot of it. So let’s wrap it up and bring it back to Mineral County. Give me an example of some good government project that’s you’ve gotten started there.

Cassie Hall: Well, one thing that I’ve done that has had some immediate results, some real positive results, as I helped to create, we had some employee turnover that all kind of came about, but kind of a mass exodus, one towards the beginning of my term. And it impacted both our tourism board and our recreation board. And both of those departments are bolstered by, of course, our room tax, as is the case in most people’s budgets.

And so what we did was we combined those two departments into a what became named the Recreation and Community Development Department. And it’s really become a real revitalizing links to the leadership of that department. It’s been a revitalizing it’s been a boon to our county.

David Martin: Well, you’ve said this a few times, and, you know, I want to just make sure I didn’t let you go without asking what what draws tourists to Mineral County to your region right now?

Cassie Hall: A lot of the off highway vehicles, we do have a lot of trails, a lot of rustic areas. We have. Yes.

David Martin: The high desert, right?

Cassie Hall: Yeah. You can explore in our area everything from petroglyphs to ghost towns. You know, it’s it’s and then we are right on the other side of Bodie. So we have a little bit of everything in that area.

David Martin: Are there rivers? Can you pan for gold? You said there are gold mines.

Cassie Hall: It’s not. It’s panning would be more California. Okay.

David Martin: This is digging.

Cassie Hall: This is yeah. Mine shafts There.

David Martin: Are there are two gold mines. Two active gold.

Cassie Hall: Mines. There are, Yes.

David Martin: Wow. And silver mines as well.

Cassie Hall: Not now. No, no. In the history.

David Martin: But they’re still they’re still out there somewhere.

Cassie Hall: Or That’s what I hear.

David Martin: Okay.

Cassie Hall: I’m definitely not spending my free time. All right. There is any.

David Martin: Okay.

Cassie Hall: On that?

David Martin: You have reserves?

Cassie Hall: No.

David Martin: No. Well, what do you do for fun.

Cassie Hall: When you come to NAKO conferences for fun.

David Martin: With your home? What do you do for fun? What do you do to relax? Yeah. I don’t have two full time jobs.

Cassie Hall: And I still have kids and dogs and.

David Martin: Stuff. All right, well, this has been a great conversation. Cassie, thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Cassie Hall: Thank you.

David Martin: Thank you for the opportunity. You’re welcome. And good luck. Good luck with the the the busy this back in metro. Gary, thank you.

Cassie Hall: Thank you.

David Martin: The good government show is sponsored by our CO. That means our community our CO has found a way to make government even more effective. Our co provides a platform that blends in-person and digital interactions and that connects people with their government. Their mobile app transforms meaningful conversations into reliable data, and the result is actionable insights that inspires a positive change.

It’s sort of like having a flagpole. Do you want to know if the community would rather have a dog park or a bike trail? Our CO can get you an answer immediately from the folks in your community. With our CO, you can engage your citizens or any group, learn what they want and build programs and policies that advance your county, your job creators and your constituents.

So visit our COCOM. That’s 0urco dot com and learn how they do it. And while you’re there, book a demonstration. We just like seeing young commissioners get involved in their community and seeing them working and trying to make a difference. But here’s the good part. If you live in Mineral County and you don’t like the way things are going, stop into the Barley Sports bar.

It’s right on Main Street in Hawthorne, Nevada. And, you know, chances are you’ll find Cassie there. I would go on Wednesdays, but hey, that’s just me. Well, thanks for listening. I’m Dave Martin. This is the good government show. Join us again for another conversation with someone in government making a difference. The good government show and a conversation with is produced by Valley Park Productions.

Jim Ludlow, David Martin and David Snyder are the executive producers are editor and producer, is Jason Stershic. This is a good government show. Thanks for listening.

**This transcription was created using digital tools and has not been edited by a live person. We apologize for any discrepancies or errors.