For Irene, it was never a matter of choosing between home and family, instead she believed she could balance both. During her time in southern Nevada, as she more than successfully managed to achieve that balance, raising her daughter in Las Vegas, while at the same time recording a number of professional firsts.
Irene spent her childhood growing up on air force bases where her father served. Following her father’s retirement, the family moved to Las Vegas where her aunt and uncle were involved in the gaming industry. Irene attended Rancho High School and began working nights at the Bank of Nevada. After being introduced to her future husband, Dick, on a blind date, the newlyweds decided to move to Boston, where their only child, Sherry, was born.
Irene and her husband returned to Las Vegas with their baby due to the bad economy in Boston. After seeing an advertisement in the newspaper, she applied for a position in the Clark County Planning Department. Irene began working in the Clark County Planning department as a secretary, but quickly moved up. Soon, she was doing the work of the director of the planning department, without the title or the pay. She realized that she was never going to be appointed director and went to work for the City of North Las Vegas, as interim planning director, while she completed planning courses. Once she completed the courses, she was named director of planning for North Las Vegas and became one of only five female planning directors in the nation.
During her time in North Las Vegas, Irene began lobbying at the Nevada Legislature. She was the first female full-time lobbyist in Nevada. Following a downturn in the economy and a series of labor disputes, Irene was fired from North Las Vegas following a secret meeting. Her untimely dismissal and subsequent lawsuit led directly to the first open meeting law in the state of Nevada. She then went to work for the America Nevada Corporation, which was developing Green Valley at the time.
Irene’s work with American Nevada made her the first female project director on such a construction project. She stayed there for a short time, however, and in 1977 when an opportunity arose to work for the Southern Nevada Homebuilder’s Association (SNHBA), she began her career at the SNHBA. She built the organization into an effective lobbying organization for its members. She also continued to work as a lobbyist at the Nevada legislature. At the time of the interview, she worked for the SNHBA for over 32 years and was their executive director/CEO.
Irene’s oral history offers a rare glimpse into the world of construction and planning from one of the first women practitioners of those fields. It serves as a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and perseverance to all.
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