Reno Mayor Hilary Schieve Leads Mayors to Address Mental Health Crisis

Hilary Schieve is not one to shy away from big problems. She does it the best way anyone knows how: by being her authentic self.

She is Washington, DC’s Woman of the Year.

Shiv spent 10 years serving as mayor of Reno, Nevada. She also spent the past year as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan organization that serves as the leading voice for cities and the mayors who represent them.

A registered nonpartisan, Schieve is helping lead the charge to fight mental health in America’s cities.

It’s personal to him.

Schieve grew up seeing his family members suffer from depression and drug use. She lost her sister, brother and sister’s fiance to mental illness within a few months.

Her story underscores the difficulty local leaders face as they battle the worsening mental health crisis in communities across the country.

Now, as president of the American Conference of Mayors, she’s helping her city leaders find a seat at the table to discuss the resources needed to address issues that affect all levels of government.

She trekked from Arizona to Capitol Hill and the White House to meet with President Joe Biden and advocate for mayors’ needs — especially those related to increased funding to help cities combat the mental health crisis.

Wherever she goes, she’s making sure to be her true self.

“I tell everyone that I want to possibly be in politics, even if people don’t like it, you can still be ‘you’ because at the end of the day you have to be satisfied with the head on your head. What you have achieved,” she said.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Who paved the way for you?

I have been very lucky. It is very difficult but I would like to say that many people are responsible for my success. Quite honestly – and I would never even equate this with success, I’m bad like that – but there are so many people who have opened doors for me, who have given me advice, who have been incredibly kind.

I can’t really say it’s one person in particular. I think I’ve just been able to have people in my life that have been incredibly supportive, which has opened up opportunities for me. I can’t really say one person in particular.

I have been very lucky. People have been very supportive lately and I think success looks different in different areas, right? It can be business success. It can be personal success. It’s just different types of success. It’s hard to make a person like Pin Down. I think it’s a lot of work.

What is your proudest moment?

I can say as mayor that one of my proudest moments was when we regionalized the fire service. When I took over, they broke up our fire service regionally, then it became very siloed.

The nearest device will not go to the event. This was done by the jurisdiction and I don’t think people care about the color of the truck when they need services.

When we regionalize it, and that’s what we just did, it’s going to save lives and provide a much better service to residents.

For me, it was a little personal because I lost my father in a fire. I was adamant about regionalizing our fire service when it was dismantled. It was just a very, very proud moment because it was very relevant to me personally, even though I didn’t talk out loud about why it was important.

What is your definition of courage?

Just taking on really tough issues and being very committed. I think being very intentional and committed to the outcome regardless of what anyone thinks.

Especially I think in this job, you have to be incredibly committed. When we had to close for COVID, I was the first city in the state to do it. You have to be very guilty and I just knew that if it cost my political career and saved lives, I didn’t care. I thought it was the right thing to do. But it was very, very difficult.

I think it’s just being very guilty of what you believe when others may not agree.

Are there any guiding principles or mantras you tell yourself?

There is and I’m telling you, it’s going to sound very cliche, but I think it’s very important in politics. But I’m always my best when I’m me.

Just be authentic. I know it sounds cliché, but in politics, everyone tells you what to say, what not to say, how to look, what not to do.

I think especially for women, we are very critical. If I can say to myself I perform at my best when I’m truly me, when I’m just me and who I am and comfortable in my own skin.

Who do you look up to?

I say sure, my mother. I mean, she named me after Sir Edmund Hillary and she always says, ‘There’s no mountain you can’t climb!’

She is very inspirational to me because she has been through so much in her life. She’s physically and mentally tough and I’ve just been so lucky to have such a great inspiration from a mom because some people don’t get that chance.

How do you overcome adversity?

Oh, I’m a competitive freak. I fight hard to overcome any challenge. I also believe if there is a will there is a way. I know again, cliche.

I am a very optimistic person so I always believe that you can face adversity and beat the odds.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Live in the moment because you’re going to get old fast. As I’ve gotten older, I think we take for granted some of the things that happened when we were younger. We just do.

As we age, our bodies stop working. And at 18, you fully accept it.

I always say this: When I was 16, I knew everything and now I’m in my 50s and I know nothing.

I guess the bottom line is don’t take yourself so seriously when you’re young. I think we think it’s the end all, be all and that we have a whole life ahead of us that’s meant to be lived, not solved.

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