It is always a privilege to contribute a story to Vegas Legal Magazine. In the past I have focused on legal issues that affect the entertainment capital of the world such as ticket scalping and important community matters. Of course, I have also shared stories about the beauty of the arts and entertainment.

Today, I am pleased to dedicate my column to the people of the Southern Nevada Health District. Before the pandemic, many people probably thought of the Health District as the group that inspected food service establishments. Patrons applauded their work while some food servers feared them. I am sure that the words “Oh no, the health inspector is here” have been uttered more than once here in the valley.

I’ve never really talked about this, but the Health District taught me a very important lesson back when we were opening The Smith Center in 2012. All throughout the opening process, they were extremely tough on our culinary partners and held them to a very high standard, without exception. While it was sometimes frustrating, I learned to be grateful and made sure to thank them. That’s because everything about The Smith Center was designed to operate at a high quality, and food service was no exception. I actually loved it when the Health District tested the water temperature in the hand wash sinks, checked for food safety, and insisted that everything be done at the highest possible standard.

You see, I know what it is like to get sick from food.  I attended a conference many years ago in Northern Nevada and returned home with a serious food-borne illness. It was not fun. I quickly learned that hot food needs to be hot, and cold food needs to be cold. This experience changed how I looked at food and never again did I accept food kept at potentially unsafe temperature levels. So, I truly appreciated it when the Health District constantly reminded our culinary partners that food safety was important in our city and to our city. I know that being a Health District inspector can sometimes be a thankless job, so please allow me to say thank you to the many inspectors who go out of their way to keep our restaurants around the valley safe for our friends and families.

And the Health District does more than food safety. They offer training programs, health cards, vaccinations, and even offer a health center. What would we have done over the last twenty-four months without the Health District? The Smith Center counted on their expertise to fully understand when we needed to shut down, and when it was safe to reopen. They reminded us of the importance of proper mask wearing and taught us the value of things like MERV filtration, electrostatic cleaning, social distancing, and all the other aspects of dealing with Covid-19. We counted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health District to advise us on how to successfully reopen our doors, when to require masks, how to check vaccination records, and, most importantly, how to keep our employees, artists and guests safe.

The Smith Center took the challenge of Covid-19 very seriously and so carefully played by the rules established by health professionals. While we have a lot of very smart people working here at our world-class performing arts center, none of them are immunologists and so we greatly appreciated the valuable counsel of the Health District and others. Once we were able to reopen, we strictly abided by the rules set by these authorities and others, including the unions who represent the performers who appear on our stages. We tested our backstage crew regularly, invested in new technology, and did everything we could to keep our doors open. It wasn’t easy, but today The Smith Center is a testament to what can happen when you do the work and don’t cut corners.

I remember getting my first vaccination at the Las Vegas Convention Center, along with a gazillion other Southern Nevada residents. The Health District handled this challenge masterfully. Even though these were uncharted waters, these community leaders didn’t skip a beat. I got my boosters from the Health District, and even counted on them when I needed a Covid test. This agency has been here for us in a big way – and in many ways.

So, on behalf of my Smith Center family, I say thank you to the people at the Southern Nevada Health District. For many years you have looked out for our community. When we needed you, you went above and beyond. THANK YOU.