Celebrating Women: Former Las Vegas mayor paved political way for others

Local News

As we celebrate women this month, 8 News Now is highlighting a true Nevada trailblazer Jan Jones Blackhurst.

She made history when she catapulted from the private to the public sector becoming the first ever female mayor of Las Vegas.

She served from 1991 to 1999 but continues to pave the way for women two decades later.

“That’s the night I was elected mayor, with my parents,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst.

Jones Blackhurst looks back on that time as a high point in a high-profile career. 

“When I was elected mayor, I think it was all of the unseen women voices that won that race when everybody said it couldn’t be done,” she said.

It hadn’t been done. Jones was the first woman to lead Las Vegas and did so during a time of explosive growth. 

“In that moment in time remember the city of Las Vegas was 250,000 people. We didn’t even have a bus system.”

She started from the ground up. Crafting the city’s master plan which included anchoring Clark County’s Government Center in the heart of the city.

“The county was getting ready to move to Summerlin. So, I held a press conference and offered them the land for a dollar. They couldn’t say no.”

In the mid-90’s, the Strip was booming but downtown was dying. One of her most controversial legacies was creating the Fremont Street Experience and years later, the Neon Museum. Attractions that are now a part of the fabric of Las Vegas.

“I think today I would be a much better politician. I understand there are rules and a game just like there are rules in business. There are rules in politics understanding those rules make you more impactful and effective as a leader,” she said.

Now, as a leading executive for Caesars Entertainment. She’s on the frontlines of a familiar fight for gender equity pay. 

“I say I’ve been given the same speech for 25 years. That white women earn 78 cents to the dollar as their white male counterparts.”

That’s why she strongly believes in building girls up at a young age.

“If you get their interest early, they’re learning the math skills the engineering skills you bring women who are in those kind of jobs and now they have role models.”

So, what advice would she give women in the workforce? 

 “Use your voice so people know who you are. Don’t be afraid to stand up in a crowd. And then never have any doubts of your ability to be that person at the top.” 

Decades after her time as mayor, Jan Jones Blackhurst is still at the top of her game.

If you missed our “Celebrating Women” special over the weekend, you can catch it on Saturday, March 23 at 9 p.m.

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