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Gov. Guinn addresses leadership

by Linda Hiller

This month’s tour of Leadership Douglas County 1999 included a kickoff speech by Gov. Kenny Guinn on the merits of leadership groups in any community large or small.

“Whenever you have a leadership program, it’s very special,” he told class members Wednesday at the Carson Valley Inn. “I started in the Las Vegas leadership program, and it has been very valuable to me.”

Guinn said leadership groups are useful in preparing and informing people who may be new to a community, or who just want to get exposed to its inner workings so they can be better participants and leaders.

n Urban problems. “In Las Vegas we had a particular problem with all the people moving there – we needed to do something to build a diverse leadership for the future,” he said. “My son actually went through the leadership program there, and not only did he learn a lot, some of his closest friends are from that group. The exposure they got from that program allowed them to move out into the community, and in Las Vegas, the alumni group keeps getting bigger and bigger, so it’s ultimately good for the community, and they have produced some fantastic leaders.”

Guinn said that of all the leaders in Las Vegas, he couldn’t recall one person who had not come from that city’s chamber of commerce-sponsored leadership program, similar to Leadership Douglas County.

“You just can’t beat it – these groups are the cheapest way in the world to encourage good leadership,” he said.

n Rural problems. Speaking to the concerns of rural Nevada communities, Guinn said community leaders are needed to help give a region a direction for its future.

“What we’ve seen in some of the rural counties – Lincoln and White Pine, for example – is that no development is worse than too much development,” he said. “Of course, we don’t want runaway growth, but without any development you die, so what we want is selective growth.”

In Las Vegas – often the fastest-growing city in the United States – volume does create problems, he said. Clark County has been faced with having to fund new schools at a breakneck pace, and leadership group members there had to help sell the community three bond issues in under eight years.

As a contrast, Guinn referred to Lincoln County, where schools are being condemned and the lack of growth is creating a dying community.

“Leadership groups have to look to the future,” he said. “We have the same challenge in the state of Nevada, where I don’t really think we have a clear vision yet for the future of the state of Nevada.

Guinn said one of his visions for the state is to try and encourage the use of technology in helping rural medical patients receive quality care without having to travel to an urban center for treatment.

“If, as leaders, we can push telemedicine, this is a good thing for the state,” he said. “What if you’re elderly and living in Fernley or Yerington, and you need to get to a specialist, but it’s difficult. We had one case like that, and (using telemedicine) we hooked the elderly patient up to the medical school via TV and a doctor was able to look at her on the television screen and diagnose her condition miles away – she had a rash on her face. The paraprofessionals then took the medicine to her, and she didn’t have to leave home. We can do more of this, if we have the vision.”

Guinn said one of the other visions he has for Nevada is to combat the state’s high rates of teen pregnancy, school dropouts and the fact that most Nevada students don’t go on to higher education.

“If I can’t do anything about those things, why would I want to brag about being the governor of Nevada?” he said. “That’s why the millennium scholarship is going to be so great. We think it can impact all those areas by making a college education easier to reach.”

n Millennium scholarchip.The Millennium Scholarship, Guinn explained, is for students who have been in Nevada schools for at least two years, graduating with a B average or better, and who attend a Nevada university or community college.

Qualifying students are eligible for up to $2,500 per year as long as they remain in school in the state. The final details of the scholarship will be announced after the first of the year, he said. The goal is to get Nevada students in college and to stay in the state to make up an educated workforce. The scholarship will begin with the Class of 2000.

“This is a fantastic program and we don’t want kids not to go to college because they can’t afford it,” he said. “If they don’t go, it won’t be because they can’t, it will be because they don’t want to – and that’s OK – but if a kid comes up to me and says he can’t go to college in Nevada because he can’t afford it, I’m going to take him out behind the woodshed and teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.”

Guinn said having an educated workforce in the state is important if Nevada communities want to attract businesses that are non-polluting and pay a livable wage.

“We have to attract businesses that pay a livable wage,” he said. “I’ve talked to people who make $8 or $9 an hour – how can someone live on that?” Guinn asked. “When we go talk to businesses in Silicon Valley and say, ‘Come relocate here,’ we have to be able to offer them an educated workforce that they’ll pay well. This is key.”

Following a question and answer period, the LCD 1999 class boarded a bus to learn about environment, agriculture and water supply in the Carson Valley. The tour included many ranches – hay operations, composting, beef and dairy farms, etc. – reflecting the diverse efforts being made in the Valley.

n Be a leader. For information on getting involved in Leadership Douglas County, call the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority office at 782-8144.