Bryan praised by Douglas County leaders |

Bryan praised by Douglas County leaders

by Sheila Gardner

Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nevada, who said this week he won’t seek re-election next year, received about the highest accolade possible in the Republican stronghold of Douglas County.

“I think he’s an icon,” said Douglas County Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen. “When Sen. Bryan retires, he will leave behind a public legacy in Nevada to which we can all aspire. Nobody is better respected in Douglas County quarters than he is.”

The popular politician caught even his closest supporters by surprise when he announced that his second term in the U.S. Senate would be his last.

Bryan held news conferences in Las Vegas and Reno on Thursday to announce that he and his wife Bonnie wanted to come home to Nevada and would leave Washington, D.C., behind when his term expires in next year.

“I’m really happy for Bonnie and the senator,” said Tom Baker, Bryan’s rural area director in Carson City. “I can count on one hand the number of vacations they’ve had, but it’s really sad for all of us. We’re losing such great leadership. People may not realize what an advocate he is for strong local control.”

That advocacy played itself out most recently in Bryan’s support for upper Carson River users in their fight to keep the federal government out of regulation of the water.

“He’s always been an advocate of state water law,” said water consultant Jim Vasey. “His retirement is not good news from our perspective on protection of the Alpine decree and the state’s authority over water resources.”

n Supports Alpine decree. Bryan weighed in early in support of the Carson Valley Water Authority in response to a challenge by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe as to how the Alpine decree is interpreted.

“He wrote a letter to the departments of Justice and Interior on our behalf,” said Vasey. “To lose him is not good from our concerns.”

“He was always an unabashed supporter of the Alpine decree,” Etchegoyhen said. “I think his absence will be a grave loss in the water wars that are looming on the Upper Carson.”

Vasey’s friendship with Bryan dates back to the late 1950s in Las Vegas when both served in the Army reserves.

“We fought at many a summer camp together in Paso Robles, Calif., in the good old Fighting 427th,” Vasey said. “We called him ‘Whitey’ because of his blond hair. He is going to be missed. There won’t be another Dick Bryan.”

Dan Kaffer, Western Nevada Resources Conservation and Development area coordinator, recalled Bryan’s immediate assistance during the devastating 1997 New Year’s flood which inundated Carson Valley and Northern Nevada.

“He was the main mover and shaker in getting us all the flood repair dollars for Nevada along with Sen. Reid,” said Kaffer. “He also has been a strong supporter of our rural lands initiative, which can help protect our flood plain and open space in Carson Valley.”

Kaffer had kind words for Baker as well.

“He (Baker) has been incredibly supportive of the communities along the Carson and Walker rivers,” Kaffer said.

n Supports Nevada. “Republican or Democrat, from the standpoint of support for the community, Bryan does not go for party lines,” Kaffer said. “He supports Nevada.”

Bryan’s ties to Douglas County go all the way back to the early 1970s when he arrived in Carson City as a state legislator from Las Vegas. He was elected attorney general in 1979, governor in 1983 and U.S. Senator in 1989.

“From Carson Valley Days parades to Rotary and Kiwanis club meetings, Sen. Bryan is always there,” Baker said. “People can see him doing a CNN interview in Washington in the afternoon, turn around, and there he is a dinner in Las Vegas or Reno that evening. I think he comes back to Nevada five out of every six weekends. When he says he wants to come home, it may sound corny, but it’s the God’s honest truth. He loves the state so much.”

Etchegoyhen reflected on Bryan’s overwhelming support in Douglas County.

“In all honesty, he’s as close to a shoe-in as you can get these days in politics. .

“Douglas County offers very little to Democrats,” Etchegoyhen said. “There’s very little political support (for Democrats) in this part of Nevada, but he represented us well in spite of that. That’s what makes him special.”