In addition to her work with the Washoe County Public Defender’s Office, Kendra Bertschy is a board member with the Washoe CASA Foundation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In November, the Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals Network announced the winners of its 14th annual Twenty Under 40 Awards. With the region’s economic future in mind, we are conducting interviews with each of the 2020 winners, to be published throughout the year.
Who are you?
Name: Kendra Bertschy
Profession/Title: Deputy Public Defender at Washoe County Public Defender’s Office
Years in Reno/Northern Nevada: 9
Q: What do you see as the top one or two biggest economic development opportunities for Northern Nevada in 2021 and beyond?
Kendra Bertschy: We really need to work on creating opportunities for our citizens. Specifically, our mental health citizens as well as those who have substance abuse issues. And I’m sure you are aware, homelessness is a really big issue, especially right now.
Q: Why is it important for younger professionals to have a seat at the table when it comes to the business community in Northern Nevada?
Bertschy: I think it’s really important to have different generational voices at the table. Not only just the younger generation, but also those who’ve been around, in order to really try to create what works best for all of our citizens. Because there’s not a one-size-fits-all (solution) in order to make a better community. It’s really important to have diverse input to ensure that we’re really trying to help everyone as well as bring in others.
Q: What under the radar industries have the biggest opportunity for growth in Northern Nevada?
Bertschy: I think establishing a workforce for the citizens that we have in our community. We have a lot of citizens who are looking for employment who are skilled and can’t find employment. We have citizens who have been released from custody who need to have persistence in terms of job skill training. Then they could be utilized very effectively, which will make our community stronger.
Q: Where do you see the greater Reno-Sparks region in five years?
Bertschy: I think that we’ve really shown over the past two years that we are on a path of an upward trajectory in terms of being successful. We’ve had a lot of new businesses come in, new restaurants open. And even during the pandemic, it has shown that they can adapt, make changes and stay successful. So, I do think that we have people in those different organizations that are very, very talented and we’ll be able to come out of this and hopefully be successful.
Q: If you could change one thing for the better or improve one thing about your community, what would it be?
Bertschy: One of our top needs is really focusing on our youth in almost every facet. I remember hearing that we have one of the worst rates with the amount of homeless youth that we have. And so that would be my goal, to try to put in programs to really help target those students early to ensure that they don’t end up in that situation in the first place.
Q: Why do you feel Northern Nevada is better positioned to bounce back from the COVID recession than other regions?
Bertschy: From what I’ve seen with our businesses, I do think we have a lot of talented individuals who are leading the charge in order to overcome the obstacles from COVID. But also I think that our citizens are really trying to ensure that we do everything we can to keep these organizations in business. I know I have been really proud of seeing things on Facebook and other social media, just the push from everyone when there’s, for example, a business that’s struggling, just trying to get support to them. Or all the nonprofits that are being created and really focusing on helping.
Note: This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.