Packing up memories, moving on
July 1, 2012
It has been my privilege to serve in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office for 18 months, and to have assisted with his transition and the building of his administration since Election Night 2010. I’m a native Nevadan, the grandson of Basque immigrants, so I take seriously the responsibilities of government.
The first time I was in the Governor’s Office, I was 9 years old. I came on a field trip from Fallon to see Gov. Mike O’Callaghan. And so, for the first few weeks I worked for Gov. Sandoval, literally every time I walked into his office, I felt like was 9 years old again. It has been exciting and, truth be told, daunting.
During the long winter nights of early 2011, as we worked late and grappled with the challenges of the Legislature, I would think of my mother, who worked as a secretary for the Employment Security Department in the Capitol Annex from 1946 to 1949. I think she could never have imagined that I would one day work on the first floor of the Capitol. But I have always reminded myself that, just as she passed through these halls, I will as well. I had the honor of sharing a stewardship role in this government. But the job is not mine, any more than it is the governor’s. We do it for a time, and we move on.
The best part about the job is the people it has brought into my life. Not the strategy of policymaking, not the hurly-burly of politics, not the proverbial chance to make a difference. The people will inhabit my most lasting memory.
This governor has assembled an unbelievable team. The men and women who work for him, for the first lady, and in his Cabinet are all exemplary. They work long hours for relatively little pay and they are often criticized for no good reason. But they are problem-solvers and they care about this state. They are true Nevadans. With them serve thousands of state employees – some of whom greeted us with open arms and some, initially, with fear. But each one with whom I worked did his or her job in good conscience and without complaint. I am thankful to have served alongside them in these challenging times.
One of the most difficult weekends came in September, when the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks coincided with three funeral services for members of the National Guard gunned down at the Carson City IHOP. I do not know the name or rank of the officer who sat next to me at those funerals, who reached out and patted my shoulder when I broke down and cried, but he will always be a hero to me.
The victim of the Caughlin Fire who sobbed in Gov. Sandoval’s arms in the aftermath of that terrifying event will always remind me of the blessings I have been given. And the emergency workers, faces smudged with ash from those unbelievable fires, stand tall in my book – not just for risking their lives, but for the dignity with which they do it.
The first lady and I visited Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., and had the chance to sit with a young Nevadan injured in Afghanistan. He lost both his legs, but has found a voice of such calm and optimism it can only be called inspiring.
I will long remember the university students who came to protest budget reductions, camping on the Capitol mall during the legislative session. Their earnest young faces and their desire to make change – these are the hallmarks of a bright future for this state.
Gov. Sandoval likes to tour businesses and schools; he learns by doing. And so I have met entrepreneurs and tycoons, third-graders and high school students, each one a member of the Nevada family, and each one with a unique story that reminded me why I chose to do this work.
Not every person I met was a Nevadan, of course. The day spent with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in Las Vegas was a highlight. He is personable, funny, and wicked smart. But as fun as it was to meet him, I gained more pleasure from the countless total strangers who asked me to take their picture with him. Consequently, I can now operate a digital camera on almost any cellphone ever manufactured.
This chapter in my role as a public steward has ended. It is time for me to be closer to two other people I have not seen as much as I would have liked over these last few months: my son and daughter. And what will I tell them about this experience? I will tell them that it’s true: People never cease to amaze you.
• Dale A.R. Erquiaga, senior adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval, is leaving his position in Nevada and moving to Arizona to be closer to his children. He wrote this farewell piece at the request of the Nevada Appeal.