The Voice of Sparks

Mike Carrigan, by David Calvert for USA TODAY

Mike Carrigan has been an public servant all his career whether it was in the navy serving and fighting for our freedoms, or as a civil servant of the community of Sparks, Nevada. His terms in office have been spent fighting for the rights of the citizens of Sparks, and he serves on multiple committees.

“It’s a part time job that takes me 40 hours a week to do,” says Carrigan who has served on the Sparks City Council since he was elected in June of 1999. Typically, a city councilman may serve no more than 12 years; however, when Carrigan finishes this term in office he will have served nearly 15 years.

Link to term limits story []

In 1973 Carrigan graduated from the Naval Academy and served 24 years as a Naval Aviator. One of his claims to fame is his time aboard the USS Enterprise when the shooting of the movie, Top Gun was taking place. He met the fictional characters Maverick, played by Tom Cruise, and Iceman, played by Val Kilmer. Carrigan says that Kilmer was the nicer of the two.

Married with two daughters and a 24-year career in the Navy as an aviator, Carrigan retired and eventually found himself attending the University of Nevada, Reno where he received master’s degree in journalism in 1997.

Then, in 1999, Carrigan found himself newly elected to the Sparks city council. As part of his responsibilities, Carrigan serves on multiple committees: the Board of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, the Regional Planning Governing Board, the Western Regional Water Commission, and the Schools Oversight Committee.

With these responsibilities, it is easy to see why a part-time job as a city councilman can become a 40-hour work week. Sally Moles, the executive administrative assistant to the city manager, says Carrigan, “can become focused on an issue on any given day.”

GOALS and Accomplishments

This term Carrigan’s goals are to make sure that the City of Sparks is financially stable, to bring new businesses into sparks and make it more friendly to smaller businesses.

Carrigan said he is proud of the fact that while in office they have managed to convert residential communities with the exception of some apartment complexes, into metered water. This has aided in water conservation because you pay for what you use.

“People are a lot more careful about their water use,” says Carrigan. “When you have to pay for it, you pay attention.”

His most important goal in regards to water, is to make sure that the Truckee Meadows reservoirs are full and to fight for more space to store water. Right now, because of the snow the Truckee Meadows had last winter, the reservoirs are now at 200 percent.

Carrigan has had a lot of experience in handling these different responsibilities and making sure that the voice of Sparks is heard. His role as councilman is to listen to the people and to fight for the issues that matter to them and to make a better Sparks through his votes as councilman.

“Mike Carrigan is a good mediator,” said Moles. “He is very effective and very attune to the issues.”

Julia Ratti, the newest elected member of the City Council, agrees with Moles. “[Carrigan] is great to work with.”

When faced with disagreements or opposition on the Council, Carrigan has been known to disagree on the council, but not make it a personal issue.

“He votes what he believes,” said Ratti, “but he doesn’t make it personal.”

The Ethics Board

Link to Ethics Board Story   (

In August of 2006, Carrigan unknowingly stirred a battle of free speech and political ethics. During a City Council meeting and before the vote on whether or not to approve a casino in Spanish Springs, Carrigan disclosed a personal relationship he had with a consultant for the proposed Lazy 8 casino. Carrigan did not stand to gain anything financially by approving the plan and voted accordingly.

Not everyone would agree that voting what you believe is a good thing.  In fact, as a result of this vote, an ethics complaint was filed against Carrigan.

“It will be good when he is off the council,” said Shirley Bertschinger, a Sparks resident and part of the group that filed the ethics complaint.

Bertschinger, along with several others, presented the ethics complaint to the board when, after asked several times to recuse himself, he did not. “I have nothing against him, but I feel he did not do the right thing,” Bertschinger said.

“The ethics complaint was completely wrong,” Carrigan said emphatically. Carrigan saw the issue as the vague wording of the rules ( of which he wanted specified.

Carrigan said that he fought the issue because he believed that the Ethics Board was wrong, and in the end, felt vindicated by the U.S. Supreme Court when they ruled it was not a First Amendment issue. “I was upset because it was a political move to get me out of office. Voters aren’t stupid,” alluding to the fact that he has been elected to his office four times.

Moving On

Carrigan knows it is important to stay connected to his constituents and said it is easy for him to do so because his ward is new and is mostly made up of HOA’s. He attends the meetings and is able to talk with them directly and hear their concerns.

Social media is an ever growing part of many professions. Although, as with many seasoned professionals, Carrigan said “it is useful to the younger generations, but it’s not to older people.”

“I am on Facebook because that is where the younger voters are,” Carrigan said, “I communicate directly with them and will answer their questions.”

“I like the technology,” said Carrigan. He was on a talk show representing the TMWA, and was asked a question he didn’t know the answer to. He received a text message with the answer and thought, “that’s pretty cool.”


The Board of the TMWA: Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) is a not-for-profit, community-owned water utility, overseen by elected officials and citizen appointees from Reno, Sparks and Washoe County. Carrigan says it is a combined government effort with Washoe County. It was purchased from Sierra Power in an effort to keep prices down and to work more efficiently. His duty is like a CEO – he runs the board meetings and is available to staff.

The Regional Planning Governing Board: is responsible for regional planning policy issues and adopts the Regional Plan based on recommendations put forward by the Regional Planning Commission. In laymens terms, it is a state mandated board that takes care of all of the planning in the area or any significant development and ensures its execution.

The Western Regional Water Commission: is designed to “sustain our community’s quality of life through efficient total water management”. It is a state commission over all Northern Nevada. A 10 member board that includes every government agency and deals with the water quality of the Truckee River and use of cleaned water from sewer plants. It also works with the Paiute tribes and the flood control commission.

The Schools Oversight Committee: as part of Carrigan’s duties here, he ensures that the school district is spending it’s money properly. He recollected a few years ago when the district wanted to roll over $40M in bond money for new construction of schools and fixing up old ones.


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