Longtime public servant Ted Thornton remembered
December 8, 2006
Ted Thornton could be a bit direct, ruffle a few feathers. But in nearly 50 years in Carson City – 16 of them as city clerk and treasurer – friends say he was never mean spirited, was generally right and often softened the blow with an infectious smile.
More than 100 friends and family members gathered Friday in Bethlehem Lutheran Church to say goodbye to Thornton who died Monday at age 78.
Grandson Wes Arnett said Thornton was everything from a fishing partner to “king of barbecued ribs.” He thanked those who have praised Thornton’s integrity and competence, but said the family and friends will better remember grandfather’s “more human side.”
“He was a bit long-winded,” said Arnett drawing laughter from those at the service. “He’s probably still giving God an earful.
“And he could be blunt,” which drew more nods and chuckles from the audience.
He told those gathered at the memorial service that when they talked last week, his grandfather repeated what Thornton’s own father had said on his deathbed: “He said when you’re dying, you can feel one of two ways: Regretful or satisfied.
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“He said I’m dying satisfied,” Arnett said.
Many of those attending the service were friends Thornton made during his years with the city. And more than one mentioned that smile which Clerk/Recorder Alan Glover said sometimes hid a touch of “gotcha” beneath his mustache.
Former Carson Mayor Harold Jacobson said Thornton was “always smiling.” He was one of those who convinced Thornton to run for clerk/treasurer in 1978.
“He started handling the clerk’s office like it ought to be done – very well,” said Jacobson, who served two terms as mayor.
Glover, who assumed the clerk/recorder’s job when the treasurer’s office was separated from clerk in 1991, described Thornton as “one of the most honest public servants I’ve ever seen.”
Glover said the procedures Thornton put in place for elections are still being used by his office.
Jacobson described Thornton as “a take-charge person.”
“Give him an assignment, he’d get it done and done right.”
It was Thornton’s idea to combine the clerk and recorder and separate the treasurer’s office. Glover said the city needed a full-time treasurer to handle its finances at that point.
He said he enjoyed Thornton personally, but admitted Ted was often brusque.
“He could be rather frank,” Glover said. “That’s what got him in trouble with city managers over the years.”
But he said Thornton was usually right and was always working to improve the operation of his office.
Jackie Ramer, who worked for Thornton during the three terms he ran the clerk’s office, described him as “the kindest, most generous boss I ever worked under.”
“Working an election with him was so much fun,” she said.
Many of Thornton’s health problems could be traced to his lifelong smoking habit. But he was unapologetic, designating his desk at city hall an official “smoking area.”
He came to Carson City in 1960 to run a shoe store downtown. After a successful career in business, he worked for a short time for the state before friends including Jacobson convinced him to run for office. He served three terms as clerk/treasurer and one as treasurer after the reorganization, retiring in 1995.
He is survived by his wife Leu Jean, four daughters and a son, as well as his sister and two brothers, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.