Thalia Dondero was, for all intents and purposes, an Opportunity Village founder, When seven families came together in 1954 to create what is now Opportunity Village, Thalia was there to help.
At Opportunity Village’s very first fundraiser, Star Shine, Thalia called on many of her friends to volunteer and shine shoes. The event raised desperately needed fund for what was then a struggling charity. When I arrived in town and took the job as Opportunity Village’s fundraiser, we created the Meatball Festival. Thalia, now a County Commissioner, led the charge to vote yes and removed every obstacle impacting our holding the event in a mall parking lot. Thalia, through all her years, was a fixture at every Opportunity Village event, and her many wonderful deeds to help Opportunity Village were recognized when she was bestowed the Order of the Village at Camelot.
Thalia wasn’t simply a friend and cheerleader for Opportunity Village, she was one of the last members of the Greatest Generation. Her insistence on equality, education and opportunities for all lives on as we enjoy the benefits of her hard work. Now, Thalia has joined her dear friends, Kitty Rodman and Claudine Williams, in heaven. There have never been three more powerful women watching over us. Over the years, their accomplishments have changed the face of Las Vegas and certainly changed the lives of people with disabilities.
Opportunity Village sends its love and sympathy to her son, Rob Dondero, one of our finest Foundation Board members, and the entire Dondero family. Thalia, may you keep watch over the people Opportunity Village serves and ensure that Las Vegas continues to prosper.
About Thalia Dondero
Thalia Marie Sperry Dondero lived in Nevada since 1942. She was the first woman elected to the Clark County Commission in 1974 and in 1996, she won election to the Board of Regents.
Thalia was born in Greeley, Colorado, and moved to Bakersfield, California, with her family in 1930. After finishing junior college she began to work with the Basic Magnesium Industries in Sacramento. The company transferred her to the Las Vegas area in 1942. She met Harvey Dondero, a teacher at Las Vegas High School and they were married in 1946. The couple resided in Carson City from 1946-1948 while he worked for the U.S. Department of Education, then they returned to Las Vegas where Harvey resumed his career as an educator and assistant superintendent of the Clark County School District.
Dondero became active in public education while her five children were in school. She first became involved in the Parents Teachers Association at the Mayfield Grade School where Maude Frazier mentored her. She was an active member of the Service League (now the Junior League). Dondero served as executive director of the Las Vegas Girl Scouts. Her appetite for politics developed during these years as well as her skills in achieving viable compromises.
In 1972, Thalia Dondero made her first bid for public office and ran for the Nevada state assembly. Although she lost that campaign, she learned about running one and in 1974 successfully ran for the Clark County Commission, a position she held until 1994. As the first woman commissioner and the first president, Dondero experienced a few controversies. In 1975 she refused to serve as secretary to the male members of the Commission and demanded equal treatment from her male peers. In 1996, she ran for the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education and was elected.
Among her many accomplishments, Dondero lists expanding state owned recreational areas including Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire. As commissioner she oversaw the expansion of McCarran International Airport and flood control projects. As chair of the Las Vegas Valley Water District Board, she helped the valley find available and adequate water supplies.