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Kleven, Cherina, 1958-


Retired City of Las Vegas Assistant Fire Chief Cherina Kleven was born in Taiwan, the fifth of her parents' seven children and the first daughter. The family spoke Taiwanese at home, but once the children started school all instruction was in Mandarin Chinese. Her father was in charge of the motor pool for the U.S. Embassy, and her mother stayed home. In 1970, the family immigrated the U.S. and to Las Vegas, where her father could use his training as an electrician to work with air conditioners. Cherina attended Roy W. Martin Junior High School and Las Vegas High School. She began working at 15 at the Pagoda restaurant; while she was waitressing at the Golden Nugget, she met her husband (now of 42 years). She speaks of Taiwan's pre-World War II Japanese history and its mid-century Chinese history and of Las Vegas education in the 1970s. She recalls schooling in Taiwan, learning English, union membership, racial and gender discrimination, real estate and nail technician schools, working as a fire fighter, mentors, and running for public office. She also speaks to her varied roles as the only working female in her family, the oldest of three women in the second LV Fire Department class that admitted women, the only woman firefighter at a station house, and as the first female Asian American Assistant Fire Chief in the U.S.