Bob Miller reflects on his 10 years as governor
The office suite in the north end of the Capitol Building appeared plain Wednesday, now that Gov. Bob Miller had removed his personal possessions and returned all the borrowed artwork he favored to the state archives. In the inner sanctum, the desk and walls were bare. The large, dark conference table had a few papers stacked at one end next to Miller, the room’s lone occupant.
Press secretary Misty Young whisked a seemingly endless stream of visitors through, gauging the time they spent with her boss and gently hustling them along if they dallied.
A quiet, reserved man and admitted introvert, Miller said his years as a public servant have made him more outgoing. Wearing slacks and a cardigan sweater rather than a business suit, Miller appeared composed and ready to endure the prearranged series of exit interviews with various representatives of the Northern Nevada media.
“Politics force you to be more extroverted,” he said. “It’s been good for me. Being governor has been a great job.”
n Private sector job. After an unprecedented 10 years as Nevada’s governor and nearly 30 years as a public employee – a sheriff’s deputy, a justice of the peace, a district attorney, then lieutenant governor and governor – Miller, 53, is moving into the private sector.
On Jan. 4, 1999, when he passes the leadership of the nation’s fastest growing state to his successor, Republican Kenny Guinn, Miller will officially become a senior partner in the state-wide Jones Vargas law firm.
He makes light of the fact that he, as a Democrat, has been at ideological cross purposes with other senior partners of the law firm, particularly State Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno.
“After 10 years of friendly combat with Sen. Raggio, this decision was based on the old adage, ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’ I’ll leave it to others to speculate (about) who reached that decision first,” Miller said.
Since 1992, Miller has taken an active role in the National Governors Association. He was the association chairman in 1996. He has served on the federal Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations since President Bill Clinton appointed him in 1993 and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime in 1982, during his eight-year tenure as Clark County’s district attorney.
“I’ll probably specialize in administrative law and government relations,” Miller said. “They’ll want to take advantage of my contacts throughout the country and in Washington, D.C.”
Miller said he has also been approached to sit on the governing boards of two publicly traded, non-gaming companies. Last year, after a proffered appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico fell through, Miller declined an appointment to Argentina.
n Squeaky wheel. “I’m not pursuing any foreign appointments,” he said. “I’ve accepted a seat on the advisory board for the Department of Energy. I can be the squeaky wheel on the inside, resisting nuclear waste.”
Miller became governor when former governor and fellow Democrat Richard Bryan was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988. He finished the last two years of Bryan’s second term and went on to be re-elected twice.
“Becoming lieutenant governor seemed to be a good way to get my feet wet in state politics,” Miller said. “It was a part-time job, transitional. But, we were in a recession when I took over. The budgeting decisions I faced then were probably the most difficult I’ve had to make.”
Miller said he opted to cut the state’s budget across the board in order to balance it. By acting quickly, he said, he avoided having the state’s credit rating downgraded.
“I’m comfortable with the decisions we made. They were made relative to where services should be and how attainable they should be,” Miller said.
n State issues. He said this year’s budget shortfall will force Gov.-elect Guinn to make similar difficult decisions.
“For the 13th straight year, Nevada is the fastest-growing state in the country,” Miller said. “Reapportionment is going to be a major issue for Kenny Guinn – I don’t want to prejudge whether we should increase the number of seats in the state Legislature or rearrange the districts to reflect the population gains in Southern Nevada.”
Miller said he is opposed to the concept of unfunded federal and state mandates imposed on local governments, but cautioned that in some circumstances, counties have to be reminded of responsibilities they must meet.
“Funding or the ability to fund should go with it (a mandate),” he said.
With regard to other issues Nevada and its leaders are facing, Miller said he hopes what he calls the epitome of partisan politics currently being embraced in Washington, D.C., will be downplayed in Nevada’s upcoming legislative session.
“When Lynn Hettrick, (R-Gardnerville), and Joe Dini, (D-Yerington), were co-speakers (in the Assembly), the state was at a crossroads – it could have been divided in partisan rhetoric or joined in productive session,” Miller said. “Lynn and Joe set a mode of being reasonable and thoughtful on the issues and we had a very productive session. Lynn is a great person to work with.”
n Staying involved. Miller was saying he planned to remain active in Nevada issues, when Misty Young politely reminded him his next appointment was fast approaching.
“I don’t know if my new job will be as rewarding as this one, but I will still be involved,” he said.
Although Miller and his family have moved back to their house in Las Vegas, he said one family member has not completely adjusted to the change.
“When we drove into town, Megan (the Millers’ 8-year-old daughter) shouted out the window, ‘Hello, Carson City, I’m home!'” Miller said.
“And, tell Jake (State Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden,) the office is probably decorated more to his taste now,” he said gesturing at the bare room. “He always said I had too many pictures on the walls.”
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