Four-term Nevada Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel is a small-business owner and theater lover who is known for her brisket, her work ethic and her passion for helping Nevadans.
Spiegel, a Cornell University graduate, worked for 15 years in corporate America before starting her own business. She is president of Strategems Consulting, a company specializing in workers’ compensation claims services, and serves on Easter Seals Nevada’s board.
While she hopes to one day compete on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” her favorite television show, she’s currently busy serving her constituents in Assembly District 20, which contains portions of Paradise and Green Valley, where she and her husband, Bill, have lived since 2001.
DAVID Magazine recently interviewed Assemblywoman Spiegel about her passions.
DAVID: Gov. Brian Sandoval called you a “champion of school safety and anti-bullying efforts.” Is that a recurring theme in legislation you sponsor?
SPIEGEL: I fight the hardest for those who are least represented or able to speak for themselves and need a strong advocate. People whom I call “those with the smallest voices.” Children, especially those who have been bullied, are a priority to me and so are women and others who have not had many advantages extended to them. Consumer and health care-related issues are also things I’m passionate about.
DAVID: You own a successful business. How do you manage it during the legislative session?
SPIEGEL: I own the business, but my husband, Bill, is vice president and has nearly 30 years of experience. So, our clients know they are in good hands even when I am away from the office. That said, I still work nights and weekends on the business during legislative sessions.
DAVID: You’re also on the board of directors of the National Association for Jewish Legislators (NAJL), which is a bipartisan organization of Jewish state legislators. How have you made a difference in this role?
SPIEGEL: I enjoy working on national issues of importance to the Jewish community, and NAJL is able to present a unified voice on issues like U.S.-Israel relations, anti-BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanction) legislation and other important topics like the recent Jewish Community Center bomb threats. I also chair NAJL’s Nevada chapter, through which I also organize Passover Seders during legislative sessions. The holidays are an important time to connect with family and friends, and I strongly believe no one should ever find themselves alone for the holidays. Because of this, I enjoy opening the Seder experience to our non-Jewish colleagues and friends.
DAVID: How do you suggest people make their voices heard?
SPIEGEL: I am very accessible. I answer my own phone and respond personally to emails and social media messages. If you want to speak out and can’t make it to Carson City, you can testify at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. Don’t just sit at home and kvetch — get involved. Send letters and emails. Testify.
DAVID: Why did you become an assemblywoman?
SPIEGEL: We moved to Nevada because we believed we could have a better life here, but as I got to know the community, I saw there were opportunities to make things even better. Then, when the recession unfolded, I saw what was happening to hard-working Nevadans and wanted to do my part to help. After having a positive impact on a number of community issues, many leaders encouraged me to run for the Assembly. I was fortunate to win and am now serving my fourth term.
DAVID: You’ve said tikkun olam (repairing the world) is one of the biggest reasons you ran for office. Can you explain that?
SPIEGEL: Before I was elected, I was a businesswoman with passion and good ideas for solutions that went beyond my community. Now, as an elected official, I can get things done for the entire state. I fight for children because they are our future, and I fight for those with the smallest voices because they are least able to help themselves, allowing me to fulfill this mitzvah for hard-working Nevadans and their families.
DAVID: What are your favorite free-time activities?
SPIEGEL: I love entertaining and view cooking as my way to be creative. Whether it’s making my mom’s Mandelbrot (Jewish biscotti) or my brisket, knishes or candied pecans, I love to make people happy by sharing delicious food. For the past 30 years, I’ve also had a goal to enjoy a live performance every month. Living near the Strip makes for some fun “date nights” with Bill.