DeLores Aiazzi has always set her own timeline, whether it was going to college after having two children, or launching a career in politics at the age of 57 after a quarter-century career in microbiology. And if you happen to hear her stumping on the campaign trail, don’t be fooled by her gentle voice and demeanor. The microbiologist-turned-mayoral-candidate is no wallflower. “I may be soft spoken but I don’t let much stop me.” And for the would-be mayor of Reno, it seems like a natural career transition. “I’ve always been educating people, albeit mostly about microscopic organisms. This time around I have the opportunity to help the public understand what’s important in the community, see things from a different perspective, and make informed decisions.”
Married for almost 40 years, Aiazzi’s BA degree from the University of Nevada in clinical laboratory science led her to the Renown Medical Center Laboratory. Her first six years of working life were spent on the graveyard shift, a job she could manage while raising her children. She specialized in clinical microbiology and moved up to a supervisory position in the lab: “Clinical microbiologists are kind of like gardeners. We grow things and try to kill them in the best way possible,” she explains gleefully. “The goal is to let the doctors know what is going to work for the organism … we basically identify pathogens.”
Aiazzi spent a remarkable 25 years at Renown, the last 5 of which she became “the face of the laboratory” as the manager. “It was a big job. I managed 65 direct reports and oversaw specimen procurement.”
But then her breast cancer returned. The first time doctors caught it early and she was treated during the working day at Renown with radiation. This time around, it was more advanced but still no match for Aiazzi: “I would go chemo on Thursdays and be back at work on Mondays. Radiation was done during my lunch hour. I managed the situation pretty well and was able to continue working while receiving treatment.”
Nevertheless, the relapse gave her some pause for thought. “Renown was a big hospital and I thought I needed a change after all the chemo … something smaller might suit me better. I didn’t want to be a manager anymore.” And so, she down-shifted to “bench tech” with no supervisory duties for three years at the local Catholic hospital, St Mary’s. The change worked well for her, and she moved to technical specialist in microbiology, a position she still holds today.
So after 28 years in microbiology and still many years short of retirement, why all of sudden decide to run for mayor of Reno? “I had been feeling for some time the need for a change. I like my job, don’t get me wrong, but I love people and interacting with them. One day, the perfect opportunity just presented itself.” Her husband, Dave, an incumbent City Council member, had been considering the mayoral position himself, but soon learned that his current position actually disqualified him from running. Aiazzi explains: “That was definitely a game changer for me. Dave had been on the Council for 16 years and now he’s on the school board. Local politics had been a key part of our lives, and we were so disappointed when we realized he could not run. The community means everything to us.” They searched for some time for a candidate but no one with the right agenda emerged. “It’s such an important time for our city. I really felt like now it’s my turn to give back. I literally woke up one day and knew I had to run for mayor, and I haven’t looked back since.”
The couple’s long involvement in local Reno politics spans 20 years going back to their successful effort to save the local city-run ski park from being sold by convincing the City Council to convert it to a volunteer-run organization. Sky Tavern, where gold Olympian medalist David Wise learned to ski, is still a volunteer-run operation today. “That initial experience taught me a great lesson: If you put your mind to it, you can actually make a difference. If you are the ‘they’ … as in the ‘they’ that should get things done, you realize it’s possible to achieve success.”
And it’s not like this isn’t serious business! There are 18 candidates for the non-partisan primary on the 10th of June. “It’s a diverse crowd, people really do have a choice about who they want to run their city this time around,” candidate Mayor DeLo explains.
Aiazzi works 10-hour days, 4 days per week and then uses her free time to research and catch up with the issues, meeting with different stakeholders to discuss their concerns and campaign. After we spoke, she was off to meet with firefighters fearing for their jobs. “It’s been an amazing growth experience. My top issue is to ensure we don’t take knee-jerk reactions to the economic situation. I want to try and manage the budget better and see if there are other fair ways to curtail spending and raise funds without cutting jobs first. We need to work more closely with our legislature to find new ways to pay for services.”
A great fan of Burning Man, Nevada’s annual Black Rock Desert art and community festival, candidate Mayor DeLo has attended for the past 18 years and is astounded by what can be achieved in such a short time when people put their minds to it. Her campaign is inspired by this “can do” attitude and the regeneration occurring in the artist community in Reno and neighboring towns.
She has some angst because a lot of work lies ahead but “I put my name in the hat, and here we go. Let’s see what happens!” Besides, the 57-year-old is not good at relaxing. For her, relaxing is “working through things”. She a force to be reckoned with, highly active, and hard working. “It’s a good thing I live in Reno, anything is possible here, there is so much going on.”
And if she doesn’t win, what then? “I’m going to get through the primary and then we will take it from there. No matter what happens, it has been a great experience for me. You’ve just got to put yourself out there. It’s tough to let people judge you but equally great to hear support.”
Good luck DeLo, and may the best woman win!
Follow DeLo’s progress on Twitter or check out her website.
Candidate Mayor DeLo Tips for Success:
- Pay attention to the things that make you happy and that you keep coming back to you. They are not insignificant and can guide you to the right choices in life.
- Sometimes, you just have to jump!
- Don’t worry about someone else’s preconceived timelines – do things when it’s right for you.
Have you ever considered quitting your job and running for public office?