Finding your Station in life

Dec 28, 2004 6:45 AM

Things became a tad busy in Lesley Pittman’s life between June 1999 and February 2000. During that period she changed careers, changed houses and had a baby. Things have stabilized since then, but come July there will be another upheaval when her daughter will be joined by a sibling.

Having a bun in the oven, as Pittman puts it, makes life a little more interesting but is not as if she has spent her life watching paint dry. Her continuing struggle is to get the public to understand the benefits that gaming brings to a new community, and to educate new residents of the Las Vegas area about the advantages the hotel-casinos provide.

Asked about the biggest disappointment in her job — vice president of corporate and government relations for Station Casinos — Pittman says, "I’ve been frustrated about the lack of understanding about what the industry has done for the community. New residents don’t have an appreciation (of) the strength of this industry. People haven’t made the connection (about) how they benefit (from gaming)."

People around the country also have to be educated as Station Casinos has grown from a company with five properties five years ago to a corporate giant that today owns 13 properties, manages one in California, and is involved in five tribal partnerships.

Pittman, who turned 39 this week, wears several hats for a company that has been publicly traded since 1993 and has $1.6 billion in assets and 11,000 employees. While she estimates she spends 60 percent of her time on political and governmental issues, she spends the other 40 percent handling the local media and directing the company’s community relations program.

The program is more than an incidental part of Station Casino’s presence in the community; its Caring for our Community component, for instance, has provided almost $500,000 annually for "high need" local elementary schools.

While she has been in Las Vegas for only 10 years, Pittman’s energy and successes have not gone unnoticed. She was named one of Las Vegas’ Top 40 Under 40 in 2002 and one of Southern Nevada’s Most Influential Businesswomen in 2003. Both awards came from In Business magazine in Las Vegas, which is owned by the Greenspun group.

Before joining the gaming industry she was the government services communications manager and associate director of public relations for R&R advertising. She has also worked in Washington D.C. as a legislative assistant to a congressman from Washington State, and as a legislative liaison for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In her Station biography, Pittman is mentioned as being involved in several successful ballot initiatives. It also says she played a key role in the successful 1997 campaign to increase the Nevada sales tax to help pay for the Southern Nevada water infrastructure improvements.

However, her career path has gained real traction in the gaming industry. "I had no idea (of) how sophisticated this industry (is) in terms of marketing and understanding the customer. I was a lobbyist for the industry (when she was with R&R). It blows me away about how much the operators know. It’s an incredibly sophisticated (and) complex industry."

She says the most rewarding aspect of her work for Station Casinos has been "what I’ve been able to learn from this management team."

Moreover she is upbeat about the gaming industry and its future. She thinks that when Wynn Las Vegas opens in April, for instance, it "is going to create a new wave, which will mean new investment, which will mean new jobs, which will mean new residents, which will mean new customers for Station Casinos."

Pittman, who can envision herself working as a gaming industry consultant at some point in the future, says "this industry is going to continue to grow at warp speed and there is tremendous opportunity for individuals who want to start their own company to service the industry."

Perhaps the biggest fault she can find in the gaming industry is the lack of female executives. "I’ve tried to use the opportunity (at Station Casinos) to mentor other women who are as fascinated by this industry as I am and (who) may be looking to build a career," she says.

Asked if she could do one thing over again in her career, the Central Washington University graduate who majored in political science, says she would have left R&R sooner. She also would have started having children sooner with her husband, John, who manages several Fat Tuesday bars in the Las Vegas area.

Pittman, who serves on a number of boards and committees, says her idea of relaxing is spending time with her 5-year-old daughter and entertaining guests in her home. She also likes to cook and specializes in Italian food.