My name is Francis Allen Palenske and I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I am the daughter of Richard and Sang Uk Oh, sister of Harry (my younger brother). My mom was from Korea, an immigrant who sought a better life in the United States and found one when she married my dad and began a family and a business. My mom was strong and smart, she expected a lot from me and my brother and encouraged us to take chances. My mom was a Pharmacist and exhibited great attention to detail. My dad was a kind and loving father who was an avid fisherman. My dad and I spent a lot of time fishing where we talked about life, our favorite foods, US history, and the rights and wrongs of the world we share. My childhood was happy and unique due to the strong bi-culture of my Korean mother and Baton Rouge father. There was music, food and family gathered around our kitchen table. Two cultures uniting to create the American dream that eventually took us to Reno, Nevada when I was in fourth grade.
My dad and mom were small business franchisees of a local donut shop called “Mary Lee Doughnuts”. I watched, worked, and learned in that donut shop. I lived the ups and downs of the economy and helped when our business flooded and we had to rebuild. I was taught the value of money, managing people, demands of the public, and how to make a perfect Boston cream donut.
Dad, brother Harry and meIn Reno, I went to Galena High School where I found an intense passion for playing soccer. The fast-paced, head-to-head style competition was perfect for me. I loved the strategy, excitement, and speed of the game. As a Senior in High School, I was elected as Class President. It was an honor to lead the class of 1995 across our graduation stage and that moment inspired me to look at political ambitions for my future.
I went to the University of Nevada, Reno where I majored in Political Science. These were great years of learning and diving into the deep end of Nevada public policy and the legislative process. In 2000 I managed the Senate Judiciary Committee in Carson City where I soaked up the knowledge of United States government and Nevada laws both written and unwritten.
I received a phone call in 2004 that my dad had died in a boating accident. He was fishing when his boat capsized and he drowned. I flew to Reno to identify his body and begin mourning this intensely deep loss in my life.
In 2005, I ran for and was elected to the Nevada Assembly where I was the first Asian-American elected to the Assembly. These were exciting years for me and I loved serving Nevada and its people. The juggling, phone calls, and ability to be a force of change were the most humbling and challenging days of my life. My Dad didn’t get to see this achievement but it was a dream we spoke about. His balanced decision-making and steady wisdom guided me every day. It still does.
I began dating a man for the next two years. After an eight-week marriage, he came home, drunk and angry. He demanded I no longer run for elected office and drop out of the campaign. I was running for re-election to the Nevada Assembly. After refusing to quit my dream of running for elected office, I took off my wedding ring and laid it next to him. My ex-husband then grabbed a knife and cut his arm in an effort to sabotage my re-election. After cutting himself, he drove himself to hospital and reported that I had cut him. Later, I was wrongly arrested and booked at the Clark County Detention Center for 12 hours. I have a mugshot and an incorrect headline (can be read here). All charges were dropped and my ex-husband recanted his story (can be read here). I lost my reelection and with it, my dream of serving Nevada’s people. I was embarrassed over the turn of events my life had taken.
I returned to becoming a private citizen for the next 12 years. I took this time to heal myself and find a new-normal for my life. I have since remarried a terrific man, Steve Palenske who is a 20+ year Fire Captain for Las Vegas Fire and Rescue. Steve is a delightful human and amazing Dad to our children. Steve and I share one child together (David) and two children that Steve blessed our lives with (Ally and Emma).
I have been quietly rebuilding my life. Waiting for the moment that I could serve our community through elected office, once again.
This time, I am older, a survivor of domestic violence, a mom, business owner with the worn wisdom that only comes with getting knocked down and then getting back up again.
I am Francis.
It’s so great to meet you.
Thank you for sharing my life.
Thank you for supporting me.