State workers recall former budget director Howard Barrett |

State workers recall former budget director Howard Barrett

Howard Barrett, who served as Nevada state budget director for two decades under under four governors, died Thursday at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

Barrett was 80.

He and his wife, Joyce, came to Carson City in 1959, when he was hired as director of the Nevada Taxpayer’s Association. Gov. Grant Sawyer hired him away as budget director in 1961, and he stayed in that job through the Sawyer, Paul Laxalt, Mike O’Callaghan and Bob List administrations, finally leaving in 1982.

During his tenure as budget director, Barrett helped the state through what one of his successors, Bill Bible, said were “some pretty tumultuous times.”

And during those years, he was responsible for hiring and training not only Bible but Mark Stevens and Gary Ghiggeri, the Assembly and Senate chief fiscal analysts, as well as Judy Sheldrew and Mike Alastuey who, like Bible, succeeded him as head of the budget division.

“Howard was a great guy,” said Ghiggeri. “Had a mind like a steel trap.”

Sheldrew described Barrett as “a great mentor.”

“He had a great sense of humor and was a good teacher. I can see him now, walking through the office ” on his pipe ” barking out orders,” she said. “He did a lot to improve budgeting in the state of Nevada.”

“He was a person of principle who truly cared about the state and the people of Nevada,” said Bible. “His wisdom and counsel was valued by four governors.”

Bible, now head of the Nevada Resort Association, said Barrett was respected by both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature “as being fair and having complete knowledge of the workings of state government.”

When he retired, Barrett returned to the Nevada Taxpayer’s Association as executive vice president. He left that position to open a travel agency in 1984 before retiring again.

Carole Vilardo, current director of the association, described Barrett as “absolutely a very special person.”

“The biggest tribute to his integrity is the fact he was reappointed budget director by four different governors,” she said. “He was just the sweetest person and straight as an arrow.”

Barrett’s family has requested that, instead of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to F.I.S.H. (Friends in Service Helping) or to the Do Drop In Homeless Day Shelter in Carson City.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.