Joe Dini, the Yerington restaurant and casino owner who served longer in the Nevada Assembly than anyone else in state history, died Thursday. He was 85.
Dini was elected by the voters of District 38, centered on Lyon County, 18 times. He served continuously from 1967 through 2002, when he retired.
During that time, he was named speaker of the Assembly a record eight times by his colleagues. When he retired, he was recognized as “speaker emeritus” and granted lifetime use of the “State Assemblyman 1” license plate.
He was widely regarded as one of the finest statesmen in state history by not only his fellow Democrats, but Republicans.
He also was known for mentoring new legislators.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, described Dini as a legend, “one of Nevada’s greatest statesmen” and “the essence of leadership in our state.”
“A true legislator, he understood that legislation is the art of compromise, and as a moderate Democrat, Joe worked with fellow legislators and governors form both sides of the aisle,” said Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said Dini’s election as speaker eight times is “a remarkable testament to his leadership abilities.”
“Joe leaves behind a legacy that very few will ever match,” he said.
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said Dini “transcended partisan labels and did more in a given week during a legislative session for Nevada than most do in a year.”
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said Dini was the “master of the art of statecraft as well as statesmanship,” and Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., described his career as a model for true public service.
“He represented rural Nevada but fought for the betterment of our entire state,” he said.
“The dignity and grace he brought to the speaker’s office served as an example to later speakers Perkins, Buckley, Oceguera and myself,” said current Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas.
For a large part of Dini’s career, his political opponent at the other end of the building was Republican Sen. Bill Raggio of Reno, who once described Dini as “one of the greatest legislative careers in the state of Nevada.”
Dini is survived by his wife of 18 years, Mouryne; sons Jay, George, David and Mike; brother, Jerry; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.