I wrote a column a couple of years ago reflecting on the recent losses of people I loved and admired, and how their absence made the world seem infinitely broken, yet full of possibility at the same time.
I wrote then, “It has made me take note of how one individual can make changes, sometimes in the entire world and other times in the world around them.”
I pointed out people in our community who were actively working to make our corner of the world a better place. Of course, I included our Mayor Bob Crowell.
With his death this week, it is even more evident the significant role he has played in shaping who we are as a capital city and what we value.
I have not known Carson City without Bob in a leadership position.
I started covering schools as the education reporter in 2000, the same year Bob became a member of the Carson City School Board.
The thing I noticed first about him is that he was intelligent in an effortless way. He could quickly receive and process information and make a fair decision.
But he didn’t rest on his own wit. He invited everyone to the table, and valued others’ opinions. I have come to find out this is a rare trait.
On top of it all, he was funny and kind – and always teared up when the kids from the school district would perform in front of the board, especially if it was patriotic.
I remember once, when tensions were high between the board and the union during salary negotiations, protestors came to his office. I had gone to cover the demonstration and was standing with him as some relatively offensive chants were shouted out.
I wrote about it in the next day’s newspaper.
At the following school board meeting, union reps addressed the board – Bob Crowell, specifically – to apologize, saying what I had written in the paper was untrue.
Bob knew it was true because we were standing right next to each other as it was said.
Still, he accepted the apology, assuring no hard feelings. After the meeting, he assured me as well, confirming that I had gotten it right but it wasn’t worth arguing over.
I learned a great lesson in diplomacy in that moment, and in so many other interactions with him as a school board trustee and later as mayor.
At one point, we agreed to be one another’s accountability partners, texting each other to sign up for local races and other outdoor events.
He was arguably the most important person in Carson City, but he made so many of us feel like we mattered to him and that our contributions mattered.
His passing is an infinite loss to his family, his friends and to this community. His vision for building and uniting will be missed.
At the same time, he leaves a tremendous legacy. May we continue forward with even a portion of his grace, humor and determination for a better world.