Stories by Debbie Hall
Photos by Connie Palen
As part of our Green and Pets issue, three extraordinary women truly make Las Vegas a greener place for both the people and their pets. One of our Fearless Females profiled is thriving in a male-dominated profession while incorporating recycling and sustainability. Another Fearless Female is part of a resort on the Strip with a department that finds ways to reduce and repurpose waste, and combines giving with a better work environment. The third Fearless Female helps people at their most vulnerable as well as volunteers to rescue pugs. With these three women, Las Vegas shines a little brighter.
Nancy Paolino, General Contractor and Designer
Blending concrete, design and regeneration
Nancy Paolino, general contractor and designer welcomes, challenges, including the redesign of the 40-year-old Plaza Hotel and Casino.
As owner of a consulting firm that caters to the hospitality industry, Paolino has worked for 24 years in the construction industry overcoming two obstacles: her gender and her age. Paolino knew she could conquer this with education, hard work and determination.
“I learned everything I could about construction, as I always wanted to understand the technical side of everything I came across,” she said. “It is still a big part of how I operate today. I have the experience to carry me and the sense to speak up and ask when I don’t know something. I actually like working with men because they respect my knowledge and they know I am not afraid to work shoulder to shoulder.”
One of Paolino’s many accomplishments is that she completed the initial phase of the $35 million renovation at the Plaza Hotel and Casino staying within her budget and incorporating recycled materials. It was her vision that created the Plaza’s new, contemporary—yet classic—style and facilitated the purchase of furnishings from the Fontainebleau, which had ceased construction.
“I always look to reuse something in a clever, unexpected way. Taking an object out of its current surroundings and looking at it with a new perspective is oftentimes better than new,” she said. “We used stainless steel shower rods, conduit and brass power poles for the planter sculptures in the lobby. The cost savings associated with recycling and reusing materials is tenfold. Any attempt to promote sustainability is a worthwhile effort. The furniture and materials I negotiated for the Plaza from Fontainebleau turned out to be a win-win for everyone, including the other hotel operators who heard about the deal and were quick to follow.”
As for the continuing renovation of downtown Las Vegas, Paolino said, ““I think the Plaza is the right thing at the right time for downtown. Like any city, revitalization takes time and commitment. The Plaza renovation motivated other owners to reconsider projects that were stalled and put on the back burner indefinitely. Businesses like Zappos and the cultural investment of The Smith Center will help further revitalize the area and foster a new sense of community.”
Paolino attended Bryant College (now Bryant University), majored in finance and graduated with a bachelor’s degree at age 20. Her first position was regional manager with a national construction services company in the New York metropolitan territory. Within two years, she opened the West Coast division and began splitting her time between California and New York. At 25, she started a metal and glass specialty contracting company in New York City.
Ten years later, Paolino left her comfort zone and made the bold decision to move to Las Vegas. She worked as a business consultant and then accepted a director’s position with a national company representing its Las Vegas general contracting division. Within two years, under her guidance, company sales grew from under $20 million to over $160 million annually.
She encourages other women to enter the field and her advice to them is, “Make sure you are passionate about the business, it will keep you motivated when things get tough. Women (who) do well in this business are detail oriented and understand that communication is key.”
So what is Paolino’s next move? This past December she resigned her position at the company Flagship to start her own consulting firm. Just another challenge for a Fearless Female.
Creating and continuing sustainability on the Strip
Dallisa Hocking, director of sustainability and community for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, is part of an expanding green movement in Las Vegas.
As Hocking explained, “I oversee a department that finds ways to reduce and repurpose waste, partner with philanthropic organizations that are in alignment with our giving strategy and develop ways to engage our internal community, our CoStars.”
While Hocking knew that, “my life’s purpose was to give back to those in need and make the world a better place,” she worked in different positions before joining The Cosmopolitan.
During college she held several jobs on the Las Vegas Strip including lifeguard, water aerobics instructor, wedding planner and concierge while helping to plan events for local charities. When she started to work for Caesars Palace in employee communications and events, she realized that people had jobs in social responsibility.
“From that day forward I was determined to work in that field,” she said. “I started by taking on additional responsibilities outside of my day-to-day job to get the experience I needed.”
Hocking’s turning point was when she was asked to chair Caesars Entertainment’s volunteer council, but left Caesars Entertainment shortly after to join the team at The Cosmopolitan. She was originally hired to be its CoStar experience manager to develop and activate internal programs, but it still wasn’t focused in social responsibility.
“Soon after I was hired, I approached my boss and began pitching myself for a vacant position they had not yet hired for—a director overseeing their community relations and sustainability efforts,” Hocking explained. “After several months—and numerous chats—about the strategy and how we wanted to elevate our platform, they gave me the career break I dreamt of. Now I am the director of sustainability and community.”
Hocking is also a founding board member and officer for the Las Vegas Business Academy. The LVBA is a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to MBA candidates, as well as offering educational and personalized experiences, mentorships and specialized international studies. She has also been a member of the Junior League of Las Vegas for several years, chairing committees such as Membership Development, Done in a Day, Special Events, and Cookbooks and is a regular volunteer at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, Tonopah Community Garden, and Opportunity Village and enjoys bingo at Three Square.
“I believe helping someone in need is food for the soul,” she said.
Originally from Kent, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, Hocking moved with her family to Las Vegas in 1998. She is a graduate of Green Valley High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in corporate communications from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As for working on the Strip, it is a passion of her family since both of her parents work on the Strip and her brother is a Las Vegas Metropolitan police officer.
As a Fearless Female, Hocking’s advice to other women is, “I would like to tell people that they should determine what they love to do in life; their true passion, and then figure out a way to get paid for it. Waking up in the morning and going to a job you love will change your life. You may run into obstacles—people telling you it can’t be done, questioning why you love it—but stay strong and push through it. It is your life—determine your own destiny.”
A pug’s best friend
The depth of Jennifer Mauceri’s empathy is demonstrated with her full-time job at Nathan Adelson Hospice and volunteer work for the Southern Nevada Pug Rescue.
At Nathan Adelson, Mauceri is the volunteer program manager managing 365 volunteers who, according to Mauceri, “are the most kind, unselfish and compassionate people you could ever meet.”
As for rescuing pugs, it was her desire to give the gift of pets that led Mauceri to a pug rescue.
Mauceri explained, “I could help bring lots of love to a lot of families if I bred Banzai and Daisy (my pugs). So I got online to find out how to go about doing so and thankfully in some Google search “KC’s Pug Rescue” came up. Pug rescue? I had never heard of such a thing. I clicked on KC’s Pug Rescue page, read every single word on every single page and cried. I immediately called the vet and made both of my pugs’ appointments to be spayed and neutered the very next day. I then emailed KC’s (Pug) Rescue to find out how to get involved.”
A few months after her involvement, the founders of Pug Rescue announced they were leaving Las Vegas. Mauceri opened her home to a meeting of about 30 people (including the founders) and it was decided to continue the organization with the new name of Southern Nevada Pug Rescue.
“I think we all thought we would do some business paperwork, spend a couple hours a month saving some pugs, and that would be it,” she said. “We had no idea what we were in for!”
Since then, Mauceri has become the president of Southern Nevada Pug Rescue and volunteers with four other women who have all contributed to saving more than 525 pugs in six years.
Mauceri has advice for anyone considering adopting a pet: Think from a pet’s perspective. What would living in your home or apartment for a day be like for the pet? What will the pet do while you are away? How long are you away? What if the pet becomes disabled or medical expenses come up? Are you planning to start or add to your family? What if you have to move? Are you able to make a lifetime commitment?
As for adopting a pug, Mauceri explained, “Pugs are especially stubborn, strong-willed little creatures who don’t know that they are dogs. They are very people-oriented animals and need human companionship as often as possible. They are very smart but, because they are stubborn, can appear otherwise.” Mauceri also admits, “I jokingly tell people that pugs are a sickness and there is no cure. In fact, one of my favorite bumper stickers says, ‘My pug had me at woof.’”
Born in Colorado, Mauceri and her mother moved to Las Vegas when she was 5 years old and calls Las Vegas home. As for the person who most inspired her, Mauceri said, “My grandmother Ruth has always been, and will always be my inspiration. My hero really. She quietly has led our family by example and is the reason I am who I am today. She is the strongest woman I know and I love her with all of my heart. I could never repay her for the gift of courage she has given me.
As for her life today, Mauceri is grateful. “Nathan Adelson Hospice and Southern Nevada Pug Rescue help me find purpose in every single day and for that I am very blessed.” Spoken like a true Fearless Female.