Lynn Hettrick: A distinguished Nevadan

At the University of Nevada graduation in Reno on May 16, I was privileged to present the Nevada System of Higher Education's Distinguished Nevadan Award to Lynn Hettrick, whom I nominated for the award last year. My remarks for the occasion are printed below:

Lynn C. Hettrick, you were born in Carmel, Calif., and attended Claremont Men's College before moving to Gardnerville in 1972. There you became a successful businessman and a true pillar of the community and our state.

In 1992, you were elected to represent Assembly District 39 in the State Assembly. To say you served diligently and effectively for 14 years, seven regular sessions and six special sessions is a vast understatement. In your first term, the state faced a $400-million workers' compensation deficit, at the time a substantial fraction of the state's annual spending - and the problem was growing by $1 million per day. During that term and the next one, Lynn, you worked diligently and cooperatively with all parties to resolve that problem, a great legacy of leadership for a freshman.

In the 1995 session - only your second session - you were elected co-speaker of the assembly. Testament to your leadership and effectiveness is the fact that the 1995 session - the only one in which you co-led the people's house - was more famously cooperative and effective than any other session in recent decades. As one who personally experienced the equally notoriously uncooperative and awful 2003 session, I know personally what a job of leadership you did throughout. You also skillfully served for a decade as minority floor leader from 1997 to 2007.

How did you do it? You're way too modest about all of this, but when pressed you have said there were two key ingredients - and everyone who knew and worked with you will concur. First, you were good for your word and, sadly, that is a rare thing in legislative politics. When Lynn Hettrick made a commitment, a person didn't have to check back, have a contingency plan or wonder at all whether you would keep your word. Everyone knew that was an absolute with you.

Second, and even more impressive when combined with that first virtue, you vigorously stood up for your principles, which you also freely announced. This was most notable in the legendary tax-and-spend battle of the 2003 session. You gave your commitment to oppose destructive new taxes and, with a green bunch that included a number of freshmen legislators, withstood the onslaught of the most massive special-interest campaign the state has ever seen. You were proud to have led the so-called "Mean 15" and we were honored to have you as our leader.

And you did all this with one hand tied behind your back. Well, it wasn't actually tied behind your back. In fact, you lost an arm at age 19 in an agricultural accident. For a lesser man, the big story would be that he did all that he did with only one arm. But you never made a point of that at all, and instead joked about the matter. Most important, when one got you actually to talk for a moment about this fact, was what it meant to you: Instead of lamenting what you lost that day, you always focused on how fortunate you were for what you gained - because you focused on the fact that someone pulled you out of the machine that got your arm and thereby saved your life. I have always been inspired by you for that perspective.

Throughout your many years of public service, you and your wife, Arla, raised four children, all of whom still reside in western Nevada with your nine grandchildren. You have served in numerous other responsible positions in public service and private business. In addition, Lynn, you are known as a devoted husband and family man, a role model, a good neighbor and a reliable friend to the community.

Lynn Hettrick, you have dedicated yourself to the state of Nevada, and the people who call Nevada their home, and for that we are all grateful. In honor of your significant contributions to the state we are proud to recognize Mr. Lynn C. Hettrick as a Distinguished Nevadan.

• Ron Knecht is an economist who represents Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Storey and southern Washoe County on the Board of Regents.


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