KENNY GUINN: Nevadans remember humble, approachable governor
It was just Saturday night when Ken Hutchins last saw Gov. Kenny Guinn.
The former governor was in Carson City with his wife Dema and had stopped for dinner at his favorite capital city restaurant, Glen Eagles, where Hutchins manages the bar.
While there, Guinn mentioned the chores he had to do back in Las Vegas this week, Hutchins said Thursday afternoon, hours after learning his 73-year-old friend had died after falling off his roof while clearing pine needles from it.
“And it hurts that he’s gone,” Hutchins said.
“The first time Kenny Guinn came in this bar as governor he walked up to the bar and said, ‘I’ll have a Bud Light no glass,’ and just opened up conversation with everybody and that’s the way it was until the end,” Hutchins, 61, said. “He just opened up his heart to everybody in here.”
News of Guinn’s death shook many in Carson City on Thursday, drawing dozens of condolences from readers as well as local leaders and business owners.
Mayor Bob Crowell remembered when Guinn called him while he was recovering from prostate cancer in 2006, which also had ailed the former governor.
“I was home taking care of myself and he just called,” Crowell said. “When you go through that stuff you’re wondering if you’re going to be all right. It was just a marvelous call. It just made things easier to get through. I’ll always remember that.”
Guinn would frequent Mo & Sluggo’s where Juan Salazar used to cook. He said the governor came in so often that they named an enchilada after him: The Governor’s Special, a cheese enchilada with shredded lettuce topped with Spanish sauce and Jack cheese.
He still offers the dish at his two Carson City restaurants, Juan’s Mexican Grill inside the Horse Shoe Club, and Comstock Casino, where a photo of Guinn and his wife Dema still hangs at the entrance.
“We really loved this man,” Salazar said. “Every time he comes into town he came and visited me.”
Morey Tresnit, the owner of Mo & Sluggo’s, said Guinn was an approachable man.
“I think he’ll go down in history as one of the best governors Nevada ever had,” Tresnit said. “He was a gentleman from Southern Nevada who really enjoyed spending time in Northern Nevada.”
Carson Station owner Clark Russell said the governor would often have breakfast or lunch at his casino.
“He was a very hospitable guy,” Russell said. “He would go around and visit with our customers and employees. He was extremely well liked and he will be missed.”
Hutchins said that whenever Guinn spent time at Glen Eagles, the Republican governor was never partisan, always positive and made no pretension over the office he held for eight years.
Guinn would carry on conversations with anyone at the bar, sometimes with tourists passing through Carson City, Hutchins said.
“They’d be talking politics and go back and forth and then Kenny would go sit down,” Hutchins said. The tourists would turn to Hutchins and ask, “Who’s that guy?”
“That’s the governor,” he would respond to their surprise.
Hutchins thinks back to Saturday night.
“It was wonderful that night, Dema and a couple of their friends, it was just a fabulous night – even more enduring than most nights,” Hutchins said. “And when they left it was big. It was big. I never thought about it. And then today.”