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Meet the Nevada National Guard's new commander in chief: Gov. Steve Sisolak

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Story by 2nd Lt. Emerson Marcus on 01/25/2019
The Nevada National Guard has a new commander in chief.

Steve Sisolak became Nevada's 30th governor during an inauguration ceremony Jan. 7 in Carson City.

Sisolak, 65, a Wisconsin native who moved to Las Vegas in 1976, served 10 years on the Nevada State Board of Regents (1999-2008). He served as a Clark County Commissioner (2009-2018), reaching commission chair in 2013. He earned a marketing degree from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (1974) and a master's degree in business administration from UNLV (1978).

Sisolak married Ely-native Kathy Ong last year. He is the father of two adult daughters, Ashley and Carley.

2nd Lt. Emerson Marcus, the Nevada National Guard's state historian and public affairs officer, 152nd Airlift Wing, met with the new governor Wednesday at his office in the Capitol in Carson City. The following is a transcription of the interview edited for space:

Marcus: Thank you for making the time for us today, Gov. Sisolak. How's it going so far here in Carson City?

Sisolak: Good. It's like people say I never understood what they meant when they said, "Drinking out of a firehose." But I know now. There's so much information coming at us. I'm learning so much; doing a lot of reading, a lot of studying. Meeting a lot of folks. We're getting our feet on the ground.

Marcus: You've only been in office for a little more than two weeks. What, if anything, do you know about the Guard and what have you learned about the Guard so far?

Sisolak: I learned a lot about the Guard (at the) National Governors Association, and then Democratic Governors Association meeting...the Guard was a big topic at both of those meetings, as it relates to the governor's authority in various states. It's an honor, obviously, to be associated with the National Guard. I got to meet a lot of the folks when we stopped at Creech (Air Force Base) with the First Lady and me, which was enlightening. So, I'm learning more as we go.

Marcus: In your opinion, what is the role of the Guard?

Sisolak: The Guardthey are ready they are always ready. We turn to them often times in our most desperate situations, even when we have no place else to turn. The Guard is always ready to provide those services that the state needs. It's extremely important that they're always prepared, and they have been whenever they are called upon.

Marcus: Do you have a connection with someone in the military that might have given you a better understanding of the armed forces?

Sisolak: My dad served in the military. He was in the Army, but he has been passed now for 16 years ago. I don't have a connection to the military. I never served. It's a regret I also have. I wish I had served. I was in the Vietnam era way back before you were even born. But I never did and don't have anybody (close) that's currently a military member.

Marcus: Something Gov. Brian Sandoval pushed was his pursuit to make Nevada the most veteran/military friendly state in the nation. What do you plan to do to build on those efforts or maybe move them in a different direction?

Sisolak: I don't know if I want to take it in a different direction. I want to continue that outreach that Gov. Sandoval did. We stopped at Creech on the way out here. I was told I was the only governor who had ever stopped at Creech. The only one that has ever visited Creech, which is kind of sad in one sense to me that the governors haven't had the chance to get out and meet some of our military personnel, including the Guard, that were there. And I want to expand upon that and continue to visit any installations.

Marcus: As far as the legislation that is coming up this Session, there is not a lot that is Guard related. There is Senate Bill 566 that Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, sponsored for a Youth ChalleNGe program for at-risk teenagers. Are you familiar with this?

Sisolak: That's in my budget for half a million dollars a year for the biennium. That's something that helps kids who need it the most. The youth that are sometimes in need of a role model and shaping up. It gives them an opportunity to move forward to advance themselves, improve upon themselves and become productive contributing members of society.

Marcus: We have an adjutant general who has served for about a decade and he is set to retire later this year. Is there anything in the works, such as a process, to replace him? Are you looking into that?

Sisolak: Right now, that is not the first thing I am looking at. I was sworn in a couple weeks ago. We've got a legislative session coming up right around that corner, but it is definitely something we will put a lot of time and consideration into in order to make sure we find the best person.

Marcus: One of the questions I asked Gov. Sandoval when he entered office was what he thought about that moment in Nevada history (in 2011). He thought it was an important moment in Nevada history, given the struggles the state was going through. How do you view this moment in Nevada history as you enter the office?

Sisolak: Every governor brings their own perspective. I'm the 30th governor to serve and we all bring our own brand, if you want to call it that, or put our own mark on our legislative process and programs that we put in place. A lot of my priorities are the same as Gov. Sandoval's were. I've got some different ones as it relates to education and health care. I think we are pretty consistent when it comes to the military and the Guard. I don't think my policies are any different than what he had. We certainly want to be friendly to our military at all levels. We've added some things in our budget to try to help some of our retired military in Fallon and Pahrump; a few more service officers so that we can (make them) available for services through the federal government that we're not accessing or they're not accessing. So we want to have more outreach wherever possible, so that they feel more connected.

Marcus: What do you want members of the Nevada Guard to know about you?

Sisolak: I want them to know that I care. That what they have to say is very important to me. Anyone who is willing to serve our country and provide the services that they provide, in difficult times, is extremely important. We need to recognize that and honor that service for what it is, and continue to work with them to make sure that all promises that were made were kept, that we can continue to move forward in a positive way.

Marcus: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Sisolak: No. I think you've pretty much hit on all the points. I certainly want to learn a lot more about the Guard. I'm looking forward to visiting other locations, and getting to meet some more men and women (in the Guard). I enjoyed the First Lady and I both did our time in Creech and the ability to talk to folks one-on-one and I am certainly looking forward to some more of that (in the future).


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