Not quite out of the political limelight

Former Nevada State Treasurer Patty Cafferata will speak Saturday at Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park.

Former Nevada State Treasurer Patty Cafferata will speak Saturday at Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park.

Patty Cafferata spent her Saturday escorting Josh Romney, son of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, around the Republic caucus meeting in Carson City.

Despite more than a decade having passed since she held public office, Cafferata is welcomed like an old friend and remains on the short list when the party needs a favor.

Since she entered the political arena in 1978, Cafferata has acquired quite a resume. She was the first woman elected State Treasurer and the first female to win a primary election for governor. Along the way she has served as Republican National Committeewoman for Nevada and the head of President Ronald Reagan's election committee in Washoe County.

Oh and she's met six presidents.

Yet for someone who's spent her life in the public eye, Cafferata didn't start out that way. She graduated from Lewis and Clark College with a degree in Elementary School Education and became a first-grade teacher.

Then in 1978, she ran for State Treasurer but didn't consider what would happen if she won.

"I didn't give much thought at the time to the idea I would be the first woman elected. It wasn't until the next time I ran that I discovered I'd be the first. It wasn't that I wanted to be the first, it was that I wanted the office," Cafferata said.

Even though she lost her bid for treasurer in 1978, Cafferata stayed in politics. She ran for a seat in the Nevada State Assembly representing Southwest Reno in 1980, winning the primary by one vote before garnering 60 percent of the vote in the general election.

Then in 1982, she ran for State Treasurer again and won. Cafferata still remembers her first day as State Treasurer.

"The staffs from the other offices, most of them women, came out to look at me. They'd never seen a woman hold one of these big offices," Cafferata said.

Soon after, Cafferata began collecting information about her predecessors and currently has a binder on all 20 of Nevada's State Treasurers, including the newest addition, Kate Marshall, who was elected last year.

Cafferata is scheduled to share the surprising and sordid stories of Nevada's State Treasurers during a presentation titled "Nevada State Treasurers: Some Were Thieves" at the Nevada State Museum on Tuesday night.

Cafferata said that while most who held the office were honorable people, there were some scandals, including the first State Treasurer Eben Rhoades, who embezzled money from the treasury. Rhoades stole most of the money from the general and permanent school funds.

"Every treasurer is unique. They all brought something to the job and many of them were local elected officials because that was the common background," Cafferata said.

After leaving office, Cafferata went back to school and got her law degree form Southwest School of Law in Los Angeles.

Cafferata currently practices law in Reno, has written three books and co-authored her mother, Barbara Vucanovich's, memoirs.

As for future ambitions, Cafferata said she has no plans at the moment, but wouldn't turn down the right opportunity.

"My ideal office would be in the executive branch because I like administrative jobs. They are just more interesting to me," Cafferata said. "I loved serving in the Legislature. It was a great introduction to public policy, but you really don't have a lot of control."

Yet Cafferata said her greatest accomplishment was raising her family. Cafferata has a son and two daughters.

If you go

What: "The Story of Nevada's State Treasurers: Some Were Thieves" presentation by former State Treasurer Patty Cafferata

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Nevada State Museum

Call: 687-4810 ext. 239 or go online at for more information

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.


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