Thursday, July 22, 2010

Farewell, Gov. Guinn

Former Governor Kenny Guinn (R) died earlier today. And I still can't believe it.

Former Gov. Kenny Guinn, who served during Nevada’s most explosive growth, leading with a pragmatic streak and fierce determination to do what was right rather than what more partisan elements in his party thought, has died.

Guinn guided Nevada from January 1999 through the end of his second term in 2006. He died this morning in Las Vegas after a fall from a roof after suffering a possible heart attack. He was 73. [...]

Guinn, a Republican, helped push through Nevada's popular Millennium Scholarship program, which made it easier for high school graduates in this state to attend Nevada colleges. [...]

After Guinn left office, he laughed about being labeled a RINO – Republican in Name Only. He pointed to conservative acts like cutting $350 million in spending when he first took office in 1999 and accomplishments like privatizing the states workers' compensation system. But he was equally proud of the Millennium Scholarship program now named after him and for the tax increase he advocated in 2003, which was then the largest in state history.

Stories of Guinn and his policy knowledge, particularly when it came to details of the budget, were legendary. He would be in his office on weekends crunching numbers. He would corner reporters to discuss looming unfunded liabilities in the pension system until they begged off.

Farewell, Governor Guinn. I may be a proud "Yellow Dog Democrat", but I respected Kenny Guinn for being willing to "tell it like it is" and make the right decisions for Nevada regardless of party lines or rigid ideology. He was a true gentleman, a proud Nevadan, and an all around good guy. Yes, he was a Republican, but he was one of those politicians who knew how to be practical and how to make things work.

If only Jim Gibbons, Brian Sandoval, and Sharron Angle could understand...

Former Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, a Democrat from Henderson, called Guinn the consummate gentleman. "He was the type of public servant we would all like to be. He didn't play partisan politics. He had a great love for the state and that's what drove him.

"I remember a lot of times sitting in the den at the mansion and that's the way we worked things out -- such as saving the Millennium Scholarship." Despite the difference in parties, Perkins said, "I call him my friend. He really cared about people and the services for people in the state. The guy was truly a robust man. It will be a great loss for the state."

Perkins said Guinn's wife, Dema, "had such an influence over him and how he governed. She was a true partner in the office and how the state was governed."

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