Debra March became the second-ever woman mayor of Henderson less than a year ago. But she’s been serving as a public official since 2009, when she beat out 17 men in a race for a city council seat. “I looked at my background and felt that I understood real estate and land use, I understood parks and recreation,” says March, who had previously worked as a state park ranger, a social worker and the director of the Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I felt I could go in and make a difference.”
Henderson, the state’s second-largest city, was hit hard by the Great Recession. During her early years on the council, March says, the city had to tighten its belt and find a way to preserve quality of life for residents in the face of some of the worst foreclosure rates in the country. The city managed to do that without laying off any city employees, she says. As mayor, she’s focused on guiding the city through a period of economic and population growth.