Year in Review: Women moving up in politics, government

This was a banner year for Nevada women not only in politics but in state government.

Following the November elections, women will, for the first time in state history, hold a majority of the seats in the Nevada Assembly as well as four of the seven seats on the Nevada Supreme Court.

Half of the Assembly seats were won by women in the November elections, but there were two vacant seats as Chris Brooks moved to the Senate and Olivia Diaz resigned her District 11 seat.

Clark County officials announced last week both of their replacements are women — Rochelle Nguyen and Beatrice Duran. That means women hold 23 of the 42 seats in that chamber.

In addition, nine of the 21 state Senators are women, giving women a 32-31 majority when the ranks of the Senate and Assembly are combined.

At the high court, Kris Pickering has been an elected member of the court since 2008. She was joined last year by Lidia Stiglich, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, and won election in her own right this November.

Intermediate Appellate Court Judge Abbi Silver was also elected to the high court in November. Silver was originally appointed to the appellate court by Sandoval.

They’ll be joined by Elissa Cadish, a Clark County District judge who won election as a justice in November.

Jim Hardesty, Mark Gibbons and Ron Parraguirre are the three male members of the court.

Just two years ago, no woman had ever been elected to the U.S. Senate representing Nevada. Catherine Cortez Masto broke that ceiling in 2016. She was followed this November by Jacky Rosen, which means both Nevada senators are now female. In addition, two of the state’s four House seats are held by women — Dina Titus and Susie Lee.

In addition, half of the state’s six constitutional officers will be women on inauguration day Jan. 7. Kate Marshall won as lieutenant governor, Barbara Cegavske was re-elected Secretary of State, and Catherine Byrne won the State Controller post.

Now there’s just one major Nevada political office that has never been held by a woman — governor.

In state government, a record number of executive positions are now held by women, in large part because of decisions made by Sandoval.

All three members of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada are female. Sandoval appointed Ann Wilkinson to chair the commission and Ann Pongracz and C.J. Manthe as the other two members.

Two of the five gaming commission members are women — Deborah Fuetsch and Sandra Morgan, who was just appointed last April.

The men on the commission are Chairman Tony Alamo, John Moran and Philip Pro.

The commission is the parent body to the professional Gaming Control Board which runs the state’s gaming regulatory apparatus. While two of the three board members are men — Shawn Reid and Terry Johnson — former state senator Becky Harris, another Sandoval appointee, chairs the board.

Beyond that, an analysis by the state Human Resources Division shows at the end of calendar 2018, more than half of the state’s agency executives were female.

Of the 160 directors, deputy directors, division administrators and deputy administrators in state service, 103 are women.

That’s significantly more than the 73 women who held those posts at the end of Jim Gibbons’ term in the governor’s office and the 67 women executives as Kenny Guinn closed out his tenure as governor.

While Sandoval gets credit for appointing women to executive posts, some of the gain must be attributed to women moving up through the ranks in state agencies.

There are also some positions held by women that aren’t appointed by the governor, most notably the Executive Officer of the Public Employees Retirement System. Tina Leiss is currently in that position. She was preceded by Dana Bilyeu.


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