Thalia Marie Sperry Dondero has lived in Nevada since 1942. She was the first woman elected to the Clark County Commission in 1974 and in 1996, she won election to the Board of Regents.
Thalia Sperry was born in Greeley, Colorado, and moved to Bakersfield, California, with her family in 1930. After finishing junior college she began to work with the Basic Magnesium Industries in Sacramento. The company transferred her to the Las Vegas area in 1942. She met Harvey Dondero, a teacher at Las Vegas High School and they were married in 1946. The couple resided in Carson City from 1946-1948 while he worked for the U.S. Department of Education, then they returned to Las Vegas where Harvey resumed his career as an educator and assistant superintendent of the Clark County School District.
Dondero became active in public education while her five children were in school. She first became involved in the Parents Teachers Association at the Mayfield Grade School where Maude Frazier mentored her. She was an active member of the Service League (now the Junior League). Dondero served as executive director of the Las Vegas Girl Scouts. Her appetite for politics developed during these years as well as her skills in achieving viable compromises.
In 1972, Thalia Dondero made her first bid for public office and ran for the Nevada state assembly. Although she lost that campaign, she learned about running one and in 1974 successfully ran for the Clark County Commission, a position she held until 1994. As the first woman commissioner and the first president, Dondero experienced a few controversies. In 1975 she refused to serve as secretary to the male members of the Commission and demanded equal treatment from her male peers. In 1996, she ran for the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education and was elected.
Among her many accomplishments, Dondero lists expanding state owned recreational areas including Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire. As commissioner she oversaw the expansion of McCarran International Airport and flood control projects. As chair of the Las Vegas Valley Water District Board, she helped the valley find available and adequate water supplies.
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