Remembering Winnemucca’s longest-serving Mayor

It has been nearly a month since Winnemucca’s longest-serving Mayor, Paul Vesco, succumbed to the cancer he had fought for 40 years. His legacy surrounds the city of Winnemucca that he loved so well and will remain a reminder of his many years of dedicated service.

Vesco loved Winnemucca

Vesco loved Winnemucca and its residents. Daughter Monica said it would take him two hours to go to the post office because he needed to chat with everybody he saw.

“He was extremely civic-minded,” Monica said. “He was always preoccupied with what was going on around town and always trying to make it better. When his adult kids came back to town for a visit, he would take us on a very long, very slow driving tour of Winnemucca to show us all the things that were going on.”

Local businessman

Vesco, a local businessman himself for 35 years, was very pro-business and development. He often said he wanted Winnemucca to be able to provide jobs and a living for its children to return to, if they wanted to.  

Many of those local kids worked in Vesco’s businesses, which included Kreme Cone, Krazy Cone, the Family Hairitage salon, and Subway restaurant. In addition, he owned and managed real estate and apartment buildings around town.

“Many kids who aren’t kids any more probably remember dragging main street, going from the Kreme Cone on one end of Winnemucca to the Krazy Cone at the other end and maybe stopping for a hamburger on a Hooft’s Bakery bun, French vanilla coke and Humboldt County grown french fries with sauce.

Keeping restaurants, a hair salon and rentals in good condition was a job in itself. But Vesco could repair absolutely anything, according to his family. “He was extremely hard-working and persistent,” Rene said. 

Daughter Monica Vesco said she never knew that anyone hired someone else to fix things for them. She didn’t know there was such a thing as a handyman; she thought dads fixed everything.

Even with all the hard work, Vesco did manage to find some time to enjoy his love of the outdoors. “He loved dune buggying and snowmobiling,” said Monica Vesco. He loved hunting and fishing when he was younger but then became so tender later in life that he could not stand to kill an animal, she said. “He was a softy when it came to his family and his dogs.” 

Vesco adored his wife and often said how beautiful she was. Rene Vesco said she has been overwhelmed and grateful for the many kindnesses from people in Winnemucca. 

He loved his religion — he was Catholic. He loved being a volunteer fireman and jumped into his vehicle to get to the firehouse at all hours of the day and night for over three-and-a-half decades.

Cancer treatments 

for 40 years

Much of what Vesco accomplished, he did while battling cancer for some 40 years. 

“It must have been scary having the responsibilities of a large family and businesses, while undergoing many operations and debilitating treatments over the years,” Monica Vesco said. “He never let us know he was scared. He was disfigured in later years from all the surgeries but never complained of pain or felt like a victim.”

“He loved Winnemucca to the end,” Monica Vesco said. “My parents had moved to their winter residence in Arizona so the kids could help mom with him,” she explained. “In his confusion, he kept wanting to get into the car and go back to Winnemucca. He was so determined. He wanted to make it to 91 in the worst way. He knew the end was coming, so he kept moving the date of his birthday closer and closer.”

Vesco served two terms on the Winnemucca City Council some years before he retired from his businesses. Retirement wasn’t really retirement either, since that was when he chose to run for mayor.

Vesco served as Winnemucca’s mayor from 1987 to 2006 – 19 years. That record won’t be topped in Winnemucca because the Nevada Legislature instituted term limits that now end council careers, including mayor, at 12 years. 

Vesco’s legacy has made the city a better place

Former City Manager, Engineer Steve West said Vesco’s legacy in Winnemucca has made the city a better place.

The Winnemucca City Park was renamed “Vesco Park” in his honor when he finally retired as mayor. In years to come, those who didn’t know him may wonder what he did to earn that honor.

Former City Manager, Engineer Steve West said he did plenty. “All the major water projects in Winnemucca were done while Paul [Vesco] was either on the council or mayor of Winnemucca.”

When on the council, West said Vesco pushed for the Hanson Street overpass to connect the two sides of the city over the railroad tracks. “It was a controversial project,” West remembered. “It’s not all that common for an elected official — but he was willing to put up with a whole lot of criticism if he thought a project was important for the future of the town.” 

He was a major supporter of the baseball/softball sports complex on the west end of town. “That was controversial too,” West remembered. “But look how it has served the community ever since. We’ve had a lot of events we’d never have been able to attract otherwise and so many community kids have enjoyed team sports there.”

Vesco promoted and headed up the process of acquiring the old Winnemucca Post Office from the US Postal Service and its remodel to serve as Winnemucca’s new City Hall. He pushed for the Bridge Street reconstruction project that widened a major collector street through downtown and put new curbs and sidewalks as well as a fresh new paving job. 

Vesco always supported street construction and reconstruction projects, West said. “He had a strong belief in maintaining facilities in order to save more expensive repairs in the future." 

One of his priorities was appearance. “His fingerprints are on the decorative street lights around town,” West said. “In fact, almost all the beautification projects around town benefited from his support.”

“He helped push through the 2005 Harmony assessment district, one of the largest public works projects up to that time,” West said. “Property owners passed that assessment district by a fairly narrow margin and there were some people who didn’t want it. The assessments from some people were $10,000 or higher — it included utilities as well as the streets, curbs and gutters.”

The Winnemucca Cemetery in the center of town was another priority. He was always concerned that it look good, out of respect. 

Vesco oversaw an expansion of the city’s existing lagoon sewer treatment plant in 1990 and also helped the council commit to saving the money toward the eventual conversion to and construction of a mechanical treatment plant.

West served 19 years of his total of 35 years as city manager, engineer under Vesco’s mayoral leadership. “I always knew I had his complete support. That was so valuable to me personally.”

Mr. Winnemucca

“He was like Mr. Winnemucca; he loved his city,” West concluded. “Watching him talk about Winnemucca to other people around the state was fun. He was so proud of this community and the spirit of cooperation between the city and county.”