Ann Bednarski: Nevada: Lots to love, much to improve
The decision to spend my life in Northern Nevada was long considered. Thirty years in Southern California was enough; the stress and frenzy of day-to-day living had grown tiresome. Too many things infringed upon living: too many laws, taxes, freeways, people, and drugs. I remember thinking California was paradise when I arrived from Cleveland, Ohio, my hometown. But, after years there, the zest for California living somehow was lost.
I had driven through Carson City years before en route to Lake Tahoe. However, in my search for a simpler life I liked the idea of a move to Nevada. Carson City, the capital city, was quaint, bubbling with history, and beautiful. Before I moved, I spent a week in the area. The slower pace was refreshing; the lack of freeways welcoming; the beautiful scenery peace-rendering; and the cost of living substantially reduced. My decision to relocate energized me. Nevada’s relatively small population and sub-par education system interested me.
I was excited about relocating here. My plan was to get involved in the education process, hoping to establish a tutoring service as I had done in San Diego. I knew it would take some time.
Unexpected opportunities came my way. I was a receptionist at a local RV company. Two days after I started, a man delivered a local free monthly newspaper to the store. He chatted with me for a while, told me about the paper, and asked if I would write an article for it. That surprise worked out; my first article appeared in August. I liked it and the process of being involved was accelerated. My articles were about city leaders, services, businesses, and events. I discovered things unique to this state capital: No bus service, one taxi cab service, no commercial airport, and a low-ranked education system. My efforts and interest were to inform, then improve.
My first Nevada Day Parade was Oct. 31, 1995. That day was my first visit to the Governor’s Mansion. Lt. Governor Lonnie Hammergren was the guide for our tour. He told a long story I often recall. The message of it was: “Every person is put on this earth for a purpose. No one has purpose without serving the needs of others.”
After the tour he asked if I thought it smart of him to walk the parade route. I answered, “Sir, if you want to serve the people of Nevada, you should know who they are and walk in their shoes sometimes.” We went outside for a piece of Nevada birthday cake. I met Gov. Bob Miller. And I did the picture-to-remember with both of them. I did send two copies of the one with the lieutenant governor. I had autographed one for him, and asked him to send the other back to me autographed. He did.
A few years later, after steadily improving my living conditions, I was a committee secretary for the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Nevada State Legislature. It was a fantastic learning experience. My interest in education became commingled with the legislative process. Now I knew so much more about the process and the power of lobbyists.
I loved Carson City. I tutored several students; my passion for education remained strong. Several like-minded people and I started a public awareness group: Nevada Alliance for Academic Excellence (NAAE). We presented several forums on educational issues by inviting nationally acclaimed experts to our city. They were well attended but not supported by the education system.
Now, Carson City remains a beautiful place but with a struggling economy and a serious lack of employment. People are depressed, worried. Taxes and fees have steadily risen; more people are poverty-stricken and/or homeless; businesses are closing; homes are empty; and residents are leaving. Many people now refer to it to as nearly a ghost town. If Carson City is becoming a ghost town, let’s hope the “ghosts” who built the great railroads, worked the mines, and constructed the impressive Capitol Building, the Carson Mint and Museum return. Perhaps we could lure the majestic Ormsby House Hotel ghosts who entertained, fed, and imbued the people of the area with such a feisty spirit to endure and flourish to come back soon to resurrect our historic old town.
I love this beautiful city I call home.
• Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.