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Local Spotlight – Nellie Bradshaw-Farafonova – Crystal Bay Post Office

January 2, 2024 | Meghan Ochs

Originally Published in IVCBA Live.Work.Play, Written by Meghan Ochs

Nellie Bradshaw-Farafonova is the senior, and only, passport clerk at the Crystal Bay Post Office. Nellie and her job have a lot in common, on the surface both might seem ordinary in a lovely, predictable way, perhaps even a bit outdated in today’s modern digital world. However, it turns out, her job, just as Nellie herself, is a lot more complicated than meets the eye. 

Nellie moved to Incline Village in 94’ with her second husband and their then, two young children. Today, she lives in Crystal Bay and the years between tell an interesting story about a unique woman. 

She began what she calls her ‘second career’, the one outside of raising her children, at The Hyatt as a hostess.  She soon became supervisor and moved onto the Regency Club and became a concierge manager. In early 2002, she made a big change and moved to Russia to teach English. The move was precipitated by both her divorce in 2001 and 9/11 which impacted tourism. Nellie loved her time and experiences in Moscow, but despite having a multi entry exit visa and visiting on occasion, she desperately missed her children. Listening to Nellie discuss her time in Russia it’s obvious that her time away fed her naturally adventurous spirit. While there, she earned good money to send back to her children and married her third husband who was Russian. In 2005 she came back to Tahoe and was devastated when soon thereafter her marriage ended. However, Nellie’s palpable tenacity kicked in. Nellie started what would become a long term career with The United States Post Office. 

Hard work and adaptability seem to come easily to Nellie which is incredibly useful in her role at USPO. The office at Crystal Bay is actually under the jurisdiction of The State Department in Los Angeles and is unique in the number of passports it processes. Prior to COVID, 65-70 a month were processed, now, Nellie and her single member staff, do over 1600 in a 6 month period. People come by multiple travel modalities to get to Nellies office for complicated travel cases. Nellie has an amicable nature that lends well to customer service and she loves all who visit. She notes that her job requires a lot of patience due to the long term nature of acquiring passports. She often encounters angry and disgruntled people.  However, she still builds lots of positive personal relationships. She can rattle off names and addresses the same way people remember land line phone numbers. Nellie has obvious, high level people skills. 

The Post Office in 2023 might seem irrelevant. Something similar could theoretically, and wrongly, be assumed about Nellie. As a short statured 68 year old woman, she seems quiet and unassuming. Nellie has the appearance of a young and kind grandmother. Talking to Nellie you quickly learn that both of these assumptions about her, and the place she works, are far from the truth. Nellie is anything but quiet, or tame. She is sweet and kind yes, but an emotionally strong, unique woman who forged her own path and collected a lot of stories of adventure, hard work, and heartbreak. As for the place she works, it doesn’t take long to learn how truly important the services she provides really are. Nellie and the Crystal Bay Post Office provide services and basic needs to individuals and families that many take for granted. There seem to be a lot of unspoken parallels between Nellie and her work, perhaps this is why she loves it.  Nellie hopes to stay in her current role for awhile longer. She thinks about retirement from her 6 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, job but knows it doesn’t make sense until she becomes a grandparent, or finds a new partner. For now, for the benefit of local residents and wannabe travelers, Nellie will be behind the counter at Crystal Bay in the signature USPO light blue shirt, and navy apron, with her big smile and warm heart, greeting all those who walk through the door. 

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Pet Network and Local Photographer Nina Miller Team Up To Help Animals Find Forever Homes

November 3, 2023 | Member Submitted

As we’re heading into the cold season and enjoy snuggling up on a comfy couch, perhaps by a crackling fire, we’re inclined to think about ways to spread some warmth.

Pet Network Lake Tahoe and long-time local photographer Nina Miller with Nina · Photography have teamed up to help more animals find a loving, caring forever home by raising funds for Pet Network’s animal rescue programs. Book a pet portrait session this fall, and the full session fee will be donated to Pet Network. Share the love and gratitude you have for your own pet and help other animals find a cozy spot to curl up! 

Is your pet the bestest, cutest, quirkiest, sweetest?

Come into the studio in Kings Beach and let’s bring out your furry friend’s personality. If you have more than one, bring them all! The focus is on your pet with minimalist, gorgeous portraits. We can include you or your kids in some photos as well, of course. Feel free to bring props — like a favorite toy, bandana, or holiday themed items for holiday cards.

A win for you, a win for animals in need

To showcase your beloved companion, you can purchase wall art, albums, holiday cards, and more from gorgeous, timeless photos you will love. Plus, your pet will be featured on a dedicated web page!

Holiday spirit with a purpose 

Pet Network-branded holiday cards will be available if you’d like to give even more! In the spirit of the season, 20% of the proceeds from these cards will be donated to Pet Network Lake Tahoe.

Come be a part of this collaboration where your pet takes center stage, and your support enriches the lives of animals in need. Book your session today!

About Pet Network Lake Tahoe

Pet Network Humane Society enables pets and people to connect and thrive through compassionate care, envisioning a society where all companion animals receive love and respect as valued members of families and communities.

Pet Network is a 501(3)c charitable organization (EIN: 94-3162646) that relies entirely on 501(c)3 tax-exempt donations from people like you to continue its life-saving mission.

About Nina · Photography

When not behind the camera, Nina loves to travel, in particular with her teenage son back to her native Germany and around Europe. Though she doesn’t have a furry companion of her own, she often dogsits. Her current pet is a leopard gecko.

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In The News – Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation awards nearly $300k in grants to local nonprofits

September 14, 2023 | Member Submitted

Originally Published in The Tahoe Daily Tribune 9/14/2023, Submitted

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – The Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation announced that it has granted nearly $300,000 from its Community Fund to nonprofit organizations serving the Lake Tahoe basin in 2023, thanks to their donor community. 

Each year, the Foundation offers competitive Community Fund grants to nonprofit organizations. These grants allow nonprofit organizations to request the support they need to better serve the Tahoe Region and focus on the Community Foundation’s five focus areas: well-being, education, arts and culture, environment, and community engagement. 

Each year, the Community Impact Committee, which is comprised of volunteer members from the community, review each grant proposal and award the most impactful opportunities.  

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Water Safety at Lake Tahoe

August 8, 2023 | Member Submitted

The North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District (NLTFPD) is warning of an increased risk of water rescues at Lake Tahoe due to the cold water temperatures. The water temperature at Lake Tahoe is currently 67 degrees, which is considered cold water. Cold water can quickly lead to cold water shock, swim failure, and hypothermia, which can be deadly.

“We have already responded to several water rescues this summer,” said NLTFPD Fire Chief Ryan Sommers. “We want to remind everyone to be aware of the dangers of cold water and to take precautions to stay safe.”

Here are some water safety tips for Lake Tahoe:

  • Always wear a life jacket. A life jacket is your best protection against drowning in cold water.
  • Enter the water slowly and feet first. Cold water shock can cause a powerful gasp reflex, which can make it difficult to breathe.
  • Never swim alone. Have a friend or family member with you in case you need help.
  • Check the weather forecast for wind conditions. Strong winds can make it difficult to swim and boat.
  • Be aware of the red flag warning status. A red flag warning indicates high fire danger, which can also make water rescue more difficult.
  • File a float plan. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Here are some additional tips for staying safe in cold water:

  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Wear a wetsuit or other appropriate clothing to stay warm.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs can impair your judgment and coordination, making it more difficult to stay safe in cold water.
  • Know your limits. If you are not a strong swimmer, do not go into the water alone.
  • Be prepared for anything. The weather can change quickly at Lake Tahoe, so be prepared for anything.

The NLTFPD is committed to keeping our community safe. If you see someone in trouble in the water, call 911 immediately.

  • Contact: Tia Rancourt                                                                                        
  • Public Education/Information Officer
  • North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District                                      
  • trancourt@nltfpd.net
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Why a James Beard Award-winning chef opened a restaurant in a Tahoe bowling alley

May 15, 2023 | Member Submitted

Originally published in the SF Gate on 5/14/2023. Written by Andrew Pridgen.

As temperatures rise, snow continues to melt and days grow longer, the last place you might think of planning your Tahoe trip around is a bowling alley — but that would mean missing out on one of the lake’s newest and most notable pieces of paradise, straight from Hawaii.

A vintage holdover from the mid-1960s, Incline Village’s Bowl Inclinerecently underwent a complete overhaul. It now features refurbished and illuminated bowling lanes, a new bar, a fully stocked arcade and pool room, giant flat screen TVs, outdoor dining and games, event spaces, and even an ax-throwing range in a welcoming 17,239-square-foot facility.

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Casey Jennings & Lake Tahoe Volleyball Academy

April 12, 2023 | John Crockett

Launched in 2022, the Lake Tahoe Volleyball Academy led by local coaches Casey Jennings and Tacy Kelly provides a club team experience for local female athletes seeking to develop skills on and beyond the court.  The academy is the first club team in North Lake Tahoe and is a chance for Casey to pass on his decades of elite team and beach volleyball experience to a new generation of athletes.  

While local middle and high schools field volleyball teams, the school season is a sprint of just over 2 months, limiting practice time and competition.  After coaching the Incline High team with Tacy and observing their progress and potential, they saw the need for a local club team.  

Casey says the coaching he received as a teen had the most impact on his future success.  And that is what motivated him to start LTVA and work with youth.  “I’m so excited to give back to that age group.  The time is right and I’m excited for the future.”

A native Nevadan, Casey began playing team volleyball in his hometown of Las Vegas.  Spending summers in Incline, he and his brother would play on the sand at Ski Beach from morning until dusk.  As part of a state championship team, he credits high school coach Bob Kelly with instilling the discipline and accountability that set him on a path to future success.  

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to thank him enough for the lessons he taught me,” says Jennings.  “I don’t think I would be where I am today, making a living and traveling the world, without him.  Now it’s my turn to pass those lessons on.” 

Jennings’s resume includes winning a Junior College Championship at Golden West Juior Colege, the 1999 NCAA National Championship at Brigham Young University, an international gold and several silver and bronze medals on the FIVB World Tour, seven Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) beach volleyball tournament wins, and AVP accolades including Best Defensive and Most Improved Player awards.  

Last fall, Casey and Tacy held well-attended tryouts and fielded teams for three different age groups.  The club competes throughout the region with the season culminating in late April at the Far West Qualifiers in Reno.  The LTVA staff is complemented by coach Grace Hubrig who works with the under 13 and 14 teams and manager Ryan Shuff.     

The LTVA coaches want to instill fundamentals in their players but also the importance of a sport, school, and life balance.  “If you don’t come to practice because you have piano lessons, school work, or another sport, tell your parents, ‘Good job.’  Stay involved in multiple activities because it makes their approach to volleyball that much better,” says Jennings.  The coaches can also leverage their expertise by bringing in specialists in yoga, footwork, and nutrition.   

“Casey is big at teaching life lessons,” says Shuff, a friend of Casey’s for 35 years.  “He is so impactful on these girls that they will remember the skills and mindset they are learning for the rest of their lives.  The coaches work so well together and provide a great experience for the team.”

Nevada is home for Casey and his wife Kerri Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and they are raising their three children in Incline Village.  With all of his experience, Casey must know what makes a great team work.  “It’s all about trust.  Every student athlete will miss a practice here and there.  As a coach, you know the commitment by the consistency of showing up,” which leads to team success both on and off the court.  

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Member Profile – Rosie Webber & The Sanctuary Tahoe

April 10, 2023 | John Crockett

Step into The Sanctuary Tahoe, a community wellness center on Stateline Road in Kings Beach, and you can feel your pulse lower.  The two-story wood frame building has been a yoga and massage studio for many years but the energy and vision of new owner Roseanna “Rosie” Webber is what transforms the space into something unique.  “You immediately feel this warmth of positive energy…as you embark on a journey inward,” says Yoga Manager Brooke Haley.    

The Sanctuary provides a full range of services and experiences including yoga, massage, esthetics, and acupuncture.  But Rosie’s integrative approach to wellness combines her health and nutrition expertise with mindset counseling, homeopathy, and leadership training.  What starts as a yoga class or massage is the first step on a personal journey to wellness.  

“What I really want is people feeling what I feel in the Sanctuary and have been for twenty years.  The greatest compliment is when someone says, ‘The minute I walk in here, I can feel it.’”

Rosie first came to The Sanctuary as a massage customer before offering health and wellness coaching part-time.  Following her retirement after nearly 40 years as a surgical nurse and a desire to see The Sanctuary re-emerge following the pandemic, Rosie took the leap to acquire the business.  

“This is what I really love and my vision is to bring more wellness to the community.”

With deep experience in the medical field, it wasn’t until a breast cancer diagnosis in 2014 that Rosie fully embraced integrative medicine.  “I’m 8 years cancer free but this journey led to becoming certified in health and nutrition coaching.  We can live such a better life through diet and exercise.  I had many reasons to take my health into a broader space.”    

A New York City transplant that arrived in Lake Tahoe in 1990, Rosie and the Webber family, proprietors of The Village Pub, are well-known in the community.  She even teases a possible mayoral run if the opportunity presents itself.  You may also see Rosie at Azzara’s Restaurant where she has been waiting tables for 29 years.  “I keep trying to leave but it’s family.”  

“She is a pillar in the Lake Tahoe community,” says Haley.  “She is one of the hardest working women I’ve ever known and truly leads by example.  She is always available to support each and every one of her staff, students and clients,” including hosting the staff for a monthly “sangha” or gathering.

The Sanctuary offers yoga classes across all levels seven days a week.  Try the signature Vinyasa Flow or a Slow Flow and Stretch après ski.  Other new offerings include yomassage, a full body massage and yoga class all in one, as well as sound healing workshops.  This summer Rosie will once again expand classes beyond the Sanctuary with yoga on the beach at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe.  An introductory special for locals features unlimited classes over 30 days for $75.     

The Sanctuary will also soon offer yoga for those undergoing or in remission from cancer treatment.  During her treatment, she remembers being desperate to stay in yoga classes.  “I came out of class upset rather than rejuvenated, I was crying because I couldn’t do it.”  Rosie recently became the first certified instructor in the area and the program uses modifications and props to accommodate students.

With the support of family and friends and her network of wellness professionals, Rosie has learned much from her journey.  “If you can take something positive and give that to other people, then you should.  One person can change things and that’s what I’m trying to do here in this community.“

Get the latest updates on the schedule and offers by signing up for The Sanctuary’s newsletter thesanctuarytahoe.com.

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In the News: Lake Tahoe’s Conservation Continues (Opinion)

January 23, 2023 | Grace Hubrig

Originally published in the Tahoe Daily Tribune on 1/20/23. Written by Julie Regan.

The recent glimpses of clear skies, frosted forests, and Lake Tahoe’s mesmerizing blue hues have a way of perfectly framing nature’s power and beauty. Amidst a series of no less than nine extreme storm systems, we find ourselves simultaneously grateful for the abundance of snow and belittled by the size of the berms.

The need to double down on the Tahoe region’s climate action strategies could not be more urgent. Increasingly extreme weather events will continue to hit the Sierra – from mega droughts to atmospheric rivers. These and other impacts of climate change may have you questioning what strategies are in place to conserve Tahoe’s beloved communities and environment into the future? From modernizing land use policies to improving water quality and treating our overstocked forests, many of the solutions for tomorrow are built on Tahoe’s complicated legacy.

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Community Profile: Incline Village Community Hospital’s Louis J. Ward

October 7, 2022 | Kayla Anderson

As our community continues to grow so do the health care needs of our community. Tahoe Forest Hospital System, which includes our own Incline Village Community Hospital, IVCH, is adapting to a challenging and evolving marketplace. Tahoe Forest management, staff, volunteers and even community members and patients are working together to ensure that Tahoe Forest, at each of its locations, can fulfill the priorities and needs of all residents in Tahoe as well as the smaller rural communities nearby.

Over the last 6 years, The Tahoe Forest Health System has grown tremendously, in fact, it has more than doubled in size. Throughout its network, Tahoe Forest has added Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants. In total, Tahoe Forest now has over 160 health care providers as well as a largely new management team including a new Chief Nursing Officer, Jan Iida, the new Chief Operating Officer and Administrator for Incline Village Community Hospital, Louis Ward, who was interviewed for this article. Beyond staff, facilities and beds, medical specialties have also grown. With this growth, has come an even higher standard of care. The governing boards’ vision is to be the best mountain healthcare system in the nation. All of this is relevant because the national medical landscape is ripe for change and as a critical access hospital, Tahoe Forest serves a key role in the larger system. 

The Tahoe Forest Healthcare system is a licensed critical access hospital. This is defined as a healthcare system that operates in a rural area and offers services to patients who might otherwise have a hard time accessing care. Given their geographic locations, critical access hospitals face a number of challenges that urban hospitals do not often encounter. Typically, in rural communities, the health insurance landscape is more varied between those who are insured and a larger number of residents who are not. Due to this, a higher percentage of patients often need financial assistance. High proportions of patients travel from long distances and this poses a challenge for providers in terms of regular engagement and also in preventative medicine programs. Fewer specialties and smaller staff often make certain healthcare challenges hard to treat. Things that challenge city hospitals such as drinking, drug use, and addiction, also plague smaller rural hospitals but in larger proportions. From an overhead perspective not directly related to care costs, smaller, rural hospitals typically face obstacles such as extreme weather, atypical building codes and smaller work forces to pull from for staffing. In the past, many of these things have been true of Incline and have historically helped contribute to healthcare challenges in our town. 

As Harry Weis, President and CEO of Tahoe Forest Hospital System, explained, one-third of hospitals system similar to the Tahoe Forest System are at risk of closing due to financial distress. Critical access hospitals offer similar if not the same services, hours and specialties as urban health care environments, but typically receive lower reimbursement rates despite similar overhead costs. Weis and his team have taken a lot of preventive measures to ensure that they are not at financial risk and can continue to serve the communities in which they also live. Integration into the community through schools, outreach programs and a number of partnerships that keep health on the forefront of residents’ minds are a part of these measures. This incorporation into the community is seen almost daily in Incline Village with lines blurred between community members and healthcare providers as providers are also residents and regularly socialize, work and cross paths with their patients. This seamless integration into residents’ lives makes initiatives like the Wellness Program even easier to integrate.  The Wellness Program is a perfect example of this proactive community base approach to help patients think of health in a multifaceted way focusing on diet, exercise, motivation, mental health and long term health care planning. 

The Wellness Program, as well as the way the entire Tahoe Forest system is run, is based on the idea that the future of healthcare is an Outpatient system, rather than an Inpatient one. The number of ER visits, typically an expensive method of health care delivery, have increased greatly in Incline due only to community growth. Overall though, within the entire system, ER visits have remained flat for the last ten years due to a preventive community based approach. Tahoe Forest wishes to have more consistent and less emergent interactions with patients in the system rather than infrequent high emergent visits. This line of thinking can be seen in the new specialties now offered at the IVCH Health Clinic, 7 in total. The concept of regular contact between patient and provider, based on a holistic healthcare approach is better not just for individual patients but also for the system and our community at large.

While critical access hospitals like our own IVCH, do face unique challenges, they also have exceptional buy in from community members and staff all of whom also double as patients and beneficiaries of the local health care system. “One can only wish to get so lucky as to have such a talented and dedicated staff in this community, as well as our volunteers,” noted Louis Ward. Ward explained how recruiting staff to meet demand has not been a challenge as people really seem to want to be in Incline. IVCH also has numerous volunteers who have logged hundreds, if not thousands, of hours helping around the hospital campus. Additionally, the IVCH’s new ER, finished in 2008, was largely possible because of community donations and volunteers. This type of investment from residents it not typical in a more urban setting where the healthcare system and its workers are not as interwoven into the daily fabric of the community. This experience makes outreach programs far more effective which in turn can improve healthcare outcomes and also keep costs down. 

As Incline, and the greater Tahoe region continue to grow, Tahoe Forest is expecting and preparing for additional growth. As this happens, the community hospital here in Incline will likely expand also. Upper management is cognizant of the community culture and the mutual respect between healthcare provider and patient in this small town. Maintaining this connected and caring culture is on the forefront of the new COO’s mind as he looks to the future, “As we grow and change, we are leaning in on staff that have been here a long time to set the trends and outlook. We are being very purposeful around our mindset about community healthcare and what it actually means.” He continued, “Our patients are not a number to us, we have relationships with them, we know them directly. They work in our kid’s schools, we see them about town. Any of those kind of things, lends itself to a healthcare experience that the patient can be confident in.” 

The belief in the importance and necessity of great healthcare for all, with a focus on evolving community needs is why Tahoe Forest exists and is at the forefront of every decision its management team makes. “Every human at some point will experience great pain and discomfort. We do not realize how important healthcare is until you need it,” said Harry Weis. “Outside of our families, timely access to great healthcare is the most important thing in life.”

Residents of Incline Village, Truckee and surrounding areas are lucky to have a healthcare provider and system as adaptable, personal and caring as Tahoe Forest. 

Visit Incline Village General Hospital and Tahoe Forest Health System online.

**This story was originally published in LIVE.WORK.PLAY., IVCBA’s magazine. You can read the latest edition as well as archived issues online.**

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Community Profile: Alan Tiras/Incline Village-Crystal Bay Township Justice Court

April 1, 2022 | John Crockett

On a Wednesday morning, the Incline Village-Crystal Bay Township Justice Court has a full slate of cases.  The day’s schedule begins with Judge E. Alan Tiras working with clerks, lawyers, and the defendants before him.  And today he hears pleas and issues sentences for misdemeanors that occurred within Incline Village and Crystal Bay.   However, most of those appearing in court today are not within the township, they are before the court virtually.  

An Assistant District Attorney checks in to the hearing by Zoom from the Truckee Meadows.  The defendant is in custody in Reno but appears and participates virtually.  A defense lawyer joins with a blurred background.  Seated on the bench, Judge Tiras conducts this hybrid in-person and online court with the skill of a symphony conductor.  As camera focus shifts to those speaking at the time, the judge turns on and off mics confirming that all parties can hear and understand the proceedings.  One defendant requires a translator and Tiras calls on a court clerk to join in, adding to the complicated but smooth interaction.  

At the end of one case, he wraps up by confirming the defendant understands everything that has transpired.  “Now, don’t take this the wrong way but I hope I don’t see you again, at least not in this setting.”

Since 1980, the Incline Justice Court has provided a venue for residents and visitors to settle matters including traffic violations, evictions, and temporary protection orders, amongst others.  Tiras, who was elected to this position in 2006 and took office in 2007, explains that Justice Court is considered the people’s court.  

“The vast majority of interaction of courts and the public is at our level,” says Tiras.  “Generally speaking, we’re dealing with people that haven’t messed up too badly yet.  And it gives us an opportunity to help them so they don’t continue down the path to something more severe.” 

While the court hears citations and misdemeanors, cases can also involve more serious charges including felonies.  “What’s important is how can we help people…so they’re not making those same wrong decisions.  Punishment is a tool in the tool box but it’s the last one we want to use.”  

For Tiras, this position allowed him to continue a life of public service to the community.  In addition to his “wonderful relationship” with his wife of 41 years, Tiras credits his uncle as being, “a catalyst for my interest in public service.  His philosophy is that if he can work to make the community a better place then he is the beneficiary.” 

Following the public service lead of his uncle, Tiras served on the City Council of his hometown of Seminole, Oklahoma and was honored as Citizen of the Year.  Serving as an elected judge is “my way of trying to make things better,” says Tiras.

First visiting Incline Village in the mid-1980s, he decided to make it home, moving here in 1990 with his wife, Natalie and two young children. Judge Tiras thinks the community is a great place to raise children.  “They had amazing educational opportunities and could participate in extra-curricular opportunities as well,” he says. 

“When we first decided to move here, we loved the mountains, trees and, of course the Lake, but what keeps us here is the people,” Tiras says.  “We met many of our best friends through the schools and school events.”  He continued to follow his passion for public service by taking on leadership roles with Rotary of Tahoe Incline and the Incline Village Chamber of Commerce among others.

Judge Tiras also participates in We the People:  The Citizen and the Constitution Program of which Incline Village High School’s team is a perennial state and national contender.  He finds assisting program advisor Milton Hyams “very rewarding” but also educational.

“Not a week goes by when they don’t teach me something,” he says.  “It’s interesting watching the student progress from uncertainty to true constitutional scholars.”  With students learning to research, speak, argue, and support their positions with evidence, some former We the People students may soon be representing plaintiffs or defendants before Judge Tiras’s court.

In 2019, Incline Justice Court became the first court in the state to offer virtual options for traffic court defendants.  Holding court virtually was initially challenging but the process was gaining momentum before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended court services state-wide.  With experience gained from virtual traffic court, Judge Tiras and his team soon took the full court calendar online, becoming the only one in the state for several months.

“The virtual program is an unqualified success,” says Tiras.  He questions why defendants should take time away from work or their families to plead not guilty to a parking ticket.  “I don’t need to make it inconvenient to them to have access to justice.”  Defendants might attend during a lunch break at a job site or when they are physically unable to travel to Incline.  If the parties are participating and present wherever they are, the court can adjudicate the matter.  

“At this level we have the opportunity to figure out what we can do to help them.  It’s a really rewarding position to be in,” says Tiras.

Michael McNulty is a licensed drug and alcohol counselor whose clients have appeared at Incline Justice Court.  He says the benefit of having a local court in Incline is, “the efficiency of justice being satisfied promptly.”  McNulty states that Tiras offers, “kindness but with a firm hand.  I often hear him encourage defendants to use all of the resources that the Incline Justice Court affords,” such as attending counseling or participating in victim impact panels.

With the success and benefits of virtual court proceedings will there continue to be a need for the physical location of Incline Justice Court?  Due to a lack of technology access, virtual is just not an option for some parties.  “We need to be accessible to those people too.  There needs to be a physical space for live trials, hearings, and payment windows,” says Tiras.

More changes are in store for the court this year.  In February, the Board of County Commissioners voted 3-1 to abolish the office of the Incline Constable through an amendment to Washoe County code.  Constables provide court security, pre and post trial services such as drug testing, and process serving in addition to other duties.  The move by a Commissioner outside of District 1, which includes Incline Village, surprised Tiras.  “What bothers me is the process,” says Tiras.  He thinks the change to abolish the office of the constable is not good governance.  “Let’s talk to the stakeholders, find out what the goals of this change are.”

Some see the elimination of the constable office by the County Commission as a step towards eliminating the Incline Village township and therefore the court.  “I don’t think it would be appropriate for a judge not from Incline to adjudicate Incline matters,” says Tiras.  “They don’t have the understanding of the community, the community standards, the geography.  It would be a huge step backwards if we didn’t have a local judge.” 

The court will also move to a new location at 855 Alder Ave., the former library building and current Incline Village Community Center.  Since 1982, the court has held space at the Centerpoint Executive Offices building at 865 Tahoe Blvd.  The court will now move into a county-owned building for the first time in its history.

As the Incline Village-Crystal Bay Township Justice Court deals with transitions over the coming year, the court continues to take each opportunity to help its constituents.  “Consistency is fair.  And justice is that people are treated the same throughout the process,” says Tiras.  By using innovations like holding court virtually, Judge Tiras can offer the consistency of access to justice from Incline Village that reaches beyond the community.      

*This profile appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of LIVE.WORK.PLAY. magazine.

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