A Texan who made Reno his home, and a better place in the process By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports February 23, 2020 at 4:20 pm Bob Cashell – former lieutenant governor of Nevada, mayor of Reno, president of the University of Nevada Board of Regents, chairman of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, casino owner, and involved community activist – died on February 11. Bob was from Texas, but you’re forgiven if you didn’t know that. He and his wife moved to Reno in 1964 and almost immediately plunged themselves into the life of the community, its sports, politics and economy. It’s become clear since he died just how loved and respected he was by his adopted hometown. Former Reno Mayor Bob Cashell There have been many articles written recently paying tribute to Robert Allan Cashell, the legendary Mayor Bob. That is because he treated the press as he treated everyone else, with consideration and respect. Ray Hagar, in his tribute article in Nevada Newsmakers, talked about his lunches with Bob and Bob’s popularity with everyone from waitress and homeless people, from presidents of banks and to gaming industry CEOs. Like the other people lining up to sing his praise, I have some personal reasons for both respecting and liking Bob Cashell. In May 1978, the Comstock Hotel opened in Reno. The company was founded by a wide variety of businesspeople, but the management all came from the Club Cal Neva. In what might or might not have been fortune smiling, I was a member of that team. We operated the Comstock just as the Cal Neva operated: each day, we went to work, took bets, served food, booked rooms and undertook all the other tasks of operating a hotel/casino. The term ‘management’, to us, meant supervision. We did not understand any other way. Bob Cashell was one of the investors. After the first year, he wanted to see both a budget and a detailed financial report. He wanted to be able to compare revenues to expenses. Our controller managed to comply; the rest of us had no idea where to find the information. We had never seen it before. Budget? What’s a budget? Could you spell that, please, Mr. Cashell? He could spell it. Could he ever. He had a degree in business from Stephen F. Austin State University and the experience of operating Boomtown, which he’d bought for a veritable song and transformed from a truckstop into a very successful hotel and casino. Cashell invited our team to Boomtown to spend a week doing a budget. He made his staff available to help us with the process. And we needed the help; none of us even knew how to read a financial statement. We had no concept of standard operating ratios, much less any knowledge of the industry standard. The ratio of labor to revenue, comps, marketing and other expenses was alien to us. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. Cashell was not the only casino operator who utilized those business school practices. Harrah’s led the field, and there were a few others beside. But most of the rest of us just flew by the seat of our pants. We had no idea that we ought to be planning for revenue growth based on our efforts. What happened to the good old days of just opening the doors and taking what walked in? Without Bob’s influence, the Comstock would certainly have collapsed under the weight of our managerial ignorance. Cashell held several public offices and positions of civic importance between 1978 and 2014, but the role he is best known for is mayor of Reno. He was quickly dubbed Mayor Bob, and everyone knew him and, for the most part, respected him. He brought to the city council the same sophistication he brought to his management of Comstock. He led the change from a council known throughout the country for their inability to get anything done into an era of growth, change and “can do” thinking. Under his leadership, instead of pontificating and finger pointing, the council debated issues with an eye toward looking for the best outcomes for the city. Cashell governed by consensus. That meant he had to use persuasive arguments, not power, to accomplish his goals. Bob Cashell was mayor of Reno from 2002 to 2014, an important period of transition in Reno, as the casinos industry shrunk and the tech industries increased in importance. His administration set the stage for the new era Reno has entered, the Tesla era. When Bob moved to Reno from Texas, he found a home. He left it a better place. And those of us fortunate enough to have worked with him are forever grateful for his guidance.