In Remembrance of Kenny C. Guinn

The citizens of Nevada lost one of our most dedicated public servants, statesmen and beloved treasures last week. On Thursday, July 22, 2010 former Nevada Governor Kenny C. Guinn passed away at his Las Vegas home while attending to repairs on his own roof. His loss leaves a gaping hole in our state and in our hearts.

His long list of contributions have benefited the citizens of Nevada immeasurably. His brilliant financial aptitude, his natural leadership ability, his fervent, unrelenting passion for education, his genuine compassion for his fellow man and his courage to choose people over politics made him the most effective and productive Governor Nevada has ever had.

Hailing from the very humble beginnings of a share cropper’s family in central California, Guinn always made education his number one priority. He and wife Dema met as children, dated as teenagers, and recently celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary.

Governor Guinn was an intelligent, compassionate man and a fearless leader. He rose to the top of every arena he chose to enter, starting with the one he remained most passionate about, education. After serving in a low end administrative position with the Clark County School District for only 5 years, at the age of 32, Guinn was appointed as Superintendent of the Clark County School District; a post he held from 1969 – 1978. His dedication to the education of Nevada students remained a constant throughout his life and his career. He entered the banking business in 1978 and climbed to the top with two different institutions. In 1993 he became Chairman and CEO of Southwest Gas corporation.

In 1994 he was named interim President of UNLV. He insisted on being paid $1 for his year of service and that his $165,000 salary be credited to scholarship funds. During his one year as interim President he balanced the University’s budget, despite inheriting a $10 million deficit.

Not your typical politician, when Guinn ran for Governor in 1998 he had never previously sought or held public office. He won by a landslide.

He was deeply concerned and troubled by our current economy, the number of foreclosures, the unemployment rate, and the well-being of Nevada’s people. He still regularly met with elected officials and citizens to offer his counsel.

As Governor, he showed time and time again that he wasn’t there to further his own political career, he was there to serve the people of Nevada. I heard former Governor Bob Miller say that Guinn once said, ” I don’t have a “D” on my hat, I don’t have a “R” on my hat; I have a “P” on my hat. “P” for people.

Guinn loved people, he loved regular people. And they loved him. He loved getting out and talking to people. Since his passing there have been thousands of stories of everyday Nevadans whose lives he touched. They all speak of his kindness. Whether it was meeting in an airport, a grocery store, the board room or corner pub, wherever he went, he connected – with kindness and concern. He connected to the common man by being a common man. He connected to leaders, by being a leader. He connected to teachers, by being a teacher. And with all, he connected with compassion. He had a true heart of compassion for the plight of the common man. One account I read recently said that sometimes, after his body guards would drop him off at the Governors mansion in the evening, he would sneak down to the corner pub so he could hang out with the regular folk.

His most significant legacy is The Millennium Scholarship, which thus far has afforded over 60,000 Nevada students the ability to attend college. There is no denying that the ripple effect of 60,000 more college graduates in Nevada is hugely significant to the both human and financial well being of our States future. The scholarship has been renamed in his honor. When elected Guinn said, “Education is not on my agenda, education is my agenda”.

There is not room here to list all of things Governor Guinn accomplished in his lifetime that contributed massively to the betterment of Nevada and it’s citizens. He will be remembered as a man who was an exemplary leader, brilliant with budgetary issues and was genuinely kind, caring and compassionate. One of his greatest talents was being able to bring opposing sides to a consensus. Not everyone agreed with him, but everyone respected him.

The Michelle Sterling Las Vegas Real Estate Team extends our sincerest condolences to his wife and family. At a time when Nevada and our nation is in desperate need of real leaders willing to trade politics for progress, Kenny Guinn is going to be sorely missed.


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