Bill Clinton packs in crowd at CVIC Hall

As soon as someone taped a "Hillary Clinton" placard over the Kiwanis Club podium Sunday afternoon, the CVIC Hall in Minden had completed its transformation from town meeting place to campaign venue.

Within hours, the place that hosted spaghetti dinners, turkey bingo, dance recitals, weddings, funerals and other community events, would welcome former President Bill Clinton campaigning on behalf of his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Giant American flags hung over the balcony and against a wall. Hundreds of chairs were arranged in neat rows and on the stage of the nearly 100-year-old town hall.

Kurt Karst of Minden wheeled his wife Adina's chair into place two hours before the former president was to arrive.

"We're so excited," Adina Karst said. "We just found out this afternoon and we're amazed that he's coming here."

The Karsts, like many in the audience which surpassed 700, were undecided.

"I feel Hillary would make a very strong president," Kurt Karst said. "Our country is so divided. We can't have change if Congress is not in line with her plans."

The opportunity to hear former President Clinton brought Karen Benner, her son Rob and his wife Marcy from Reno.

The Benners missed Clinton's appearance in Reno, so they made the one-hour drive to Minden.

"This is unreal," Rob Benner said. "It's such an intimate little setting."

Seats were set up for 400, but almost that many people stood, sat on the CVIC stage and lined the balcony and stairs of the hall to catch a glimpse of the former president.

The crowd waited patiently for Clinton who arrived an hour late from appearances in Fernley and Fallon.

He touched on familiar topics: Conflict in the Middle East, universal health benefits, immigration, the environment and the economy.

"This year will mark my 40th year as an eligible voter," he said. "Hillary is the best-suited person to be president that I ever had the chance to vote for."

An audience member who identified himself as a "Bill Richardson orphan" asked if Hillary Clinton would consider the New Mexico governor and ex-candidate as a running mate.

"I won't talk to her about that," Clinton said.

He said that was a topic he and his wife agreed to avoid.

"She likes Bill Richardson. I made the guy U.N. ambassador and energy secretary. She believes he's been an exceptionally good governor," Clinton said. "I have never discussed it with her and I won't."

Officials turned away about 200 people because of the crowd inside the hall. As some left after the speech, others were admitted to take a quick picture of Clinton.

Rosemary and Jeff Babbitt drove from South Lake Tahoe to hear Clinton speak on his wife's behalf.

"I loved it," said Rosemary Babbitt, a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

"He was very articulate and covered a lot of things I was looking for."

Her husband remained undecided, but agreed the opportunity to hear the president "was a once in a lifetime event."

"The Clintons didn't write off the smaller communities," he said.

Jamie Rose of Minden, a precinct captain who is working at the Democratic caucus on Saturday, said he had concerns about the economy and the former president's remarks solidified his support for Hillary Clinton.

"The phrase, 'Been there, done that,' everybody knows. But our economy was strong under Bill Clinton, and I feel sure Hillary can get us back there. My new phrase is, 'Been there, want to go there again," Rose said.

After his 90-minute speech, Clinton stayed for another hour, speaking with audience members, shaking hands and posing for dozens of pictures people were taking with digital cameras and cellphones.

In all, he spent 2-1/2 hours in Minden, the first time anyone could remember a president gracing the CVIC Hall.

Minden Town Board member Bob Hadfield said he was pleased the Clinton campaign selected the CVIC Hall.

"I am very excited a person of such stature would come visit the CVIC Hall," Hadfield said, "I really like it that I see a lot of young kids here to see a former president of the United States. Not many people get this close to a past president."

Hadfield said in heavily Republican Douglas County, voter registration didn't seem to make a difference in the turnout.

"That's wonderful," he said.

Eleven-year-old Anna Lekumberry, who must sit out two more presidential elections before she is old enough to vote, helped her aunt Marie-Louise save a row of seats for family and friends.

Anna was undecided between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and looked forward to what the former president had to say.

"I want to see how our next president runs the country, what rights we're going to have," she said.

Following Clinton's speech, she remained unsure, but she did realize her goal of meeting the former president.

"We shook hands twice," she said. "One time, I shook his hand; then, he shook mine."

"I think he is a really good speaker for Hillary, the way he explained things," she said. "She's in my mind, but I still want to hear from Obama."


Did you get your picture taken with President Clinton at the CVIC Hall on Sunday. Send it to Shannon Litz at, and we'll post it on our Web site.


State Archivist Guy Rocha said Douglas County briefly had the honor of hosting former President Ulysses S. Grant in 1879 and sitting President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 in Glenbrook.

"Famed Carson Valley stagecoach driver Hank Monk conveyed Grant and Hayes between Carson City and Spooner Summit," Rocha said.

When President Clinton attended the Lake Tahoe summit in 1997 in Incline Village, he may have floated over to Douglas County while officials were on the Lake.

"It's easier to track a president when he is in office because every trip is official. It gets pretty hard once they leave office," Rocha said. "They may drive through, but unless someone in town tells the newspaper, it doesn't get picked up.


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