John Barrette: Carson City lost the real deal

Brad Bonkowski was the real deal.

Former Carson City Supervisor Bonkowski died Saturday after a stellar career in real estate and years of public service to Carson City.

Bonkowski understood the balance between the public and private sectors as well as any politician I’ve known.

During nearly a half century of news work, there were few in public life I met who understood this crucial dynamic as well as Bonkowski.

In four years as his colleague on the city’s Board of Supervisors, I found he proved faithful to his views on such principles.

He knew government was there to help private enterprise thrive, pave the way for citizens to do the same when possible, and his detail work was nearly impeccable.

He was that rare find in public life: a politician who really listened rather than played a role as master pontificator.

In public life, to put it candidly, you meet many blowhards who act as though they know it all when all they really know is ambition and how to navigate to the next higher office on their particular totem pole.

He also was a good friend who didn’t pull punches, told you how he saw things and managed again and again to get things done for Carson City and this region.

You’ve likely known a few people who fill the friend and upright straight shooter roles, but got little done outside their primary careers.

Brad did all three, a hat trick that eludes most people and upward of 90 percent in the political realm.

He was recognized by his constituents for his value as someone to repeat in his chosen public role. Voters re-elected him to repeat his gift to them as a government leader for their community. He deserved it.

Many politicians win reelection, then coast or look for the next rung on the public ladder. Not Brad. Among my greatest disappointments as a colleague was watching him reject his chance to ascend to the mayor's office in his own right, by election. He did serve in the role briefly as interim after then Mayor Bob Crowell — another topflight public servant —  died near the end of Bob's final term in 2020. Brad, however, long before that had made his decision against asking the Carson City electorate for the board's top spot.

Once again, he proved wiser than me and returned to the highest office in the land. He became Brad Bonkowski, citizen.

His community should understand he gave his best for his fellow high officeholders, the citizens of Carson City. His best was better than most.

The lament here is he enjoyed that private role less than was his due after leaving his seat on our Board of Supervisors.

Join me in mourning his loss and lauding his service.

John Barrette is a former Carson City supervisor and Nevada Appeal reporter.

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