Senator Bryan takes final tour of Nevada's rural communities

STATELINE - U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., hasn't had a vacation since 1977.

But for the 63-year-old senator, who never left early from work in his 32-year career as an elected official, a vacation of permanent sorts is not too far down the road.

After serving 12 years as Nevada's representative in Washington D.C., Bryan is retiring. His term ends Jan. 3, 2001.

In his final tour of Nevada's rural communities, Bryan recounted Tuesday the highs and lows of his career in Washington D.C. during a stop at Lake Tahoe's South Shore.

At the top of the list is Operation Desert Storm.

"There were only a handful of democrats that supported our involvement, - I was one of them," Bryan said. "So we went to Saudi Arabia for a briefing in the field. And there was not a building in site and I thought, 'My God, this is an army that can't go to a 7-Eleven for a Slurpee, this is the desert like you see it in the movies.' "

President Clinton's impeachment hearings ranked among the most momentous events of his career.

"One-hundred years from now historians will be writing about that," he said. But the most historically significant event in his career wasn't the most challenging, Brian remarked.

"By far the most difficult was when Sen. Bob Packwood was expelled," he said. "Especially being the chairman of the Ethics Committee. Nobody runs in the U.S. Senate to be in the Ethics Committee."

As chairman, Bryan had to break the news to Packwood that the committee voted for his expulsion.

"He took it well; he was calm and then he went out shortly after that and resigned," he said. "It is never comfortable passing judgment on your colleagues."

In addition to big-time politics, Bryan served his share at the local level.

A native of Las Vegas and a law graduate from the University of California, Hastings, Bryan became Clark County's deputy district attorney in 1964. In 1968, at 28, he was appointed Nevada's first public defender.

In 1974, he ran for the position of Nevada's attorney general.

It was the only race he ever lost, and only by a margin of 700 votes.

That title became his anyway after the 1978 election.

He was also elected as state senator in 1972 and 1976, all in addition to his service as class president in the seventh and 11th grades, and as University of Nevada, Reno student body president during his undergraduate study.

Tightly tied to Nevada's university system - his wife, father, sister, daughter and son were also University of Nevada graduates - Bryan pondered applying for the school's president position when it was vacated by Joe Crowley earlier this year.

"I wanted a little more flexibility in my schedule," he said. "But to fill the shoes of Joe Crowley would have been more than a full-time job."

And the point of his retirement, he said, is to get back to his family and friends.

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