Raggio's successor set to make own mark as new state senator

Editor's note: This is one in a series of profiles of freshman lawmakers in the 2011 Legislature.

CARSON CITY -- New state Sen. Greg Brower knows everyone will be watching this legislative session to see whether he measures up to his predecessor, 38-year Sen. Bill Raggio, the political titan of Northern Nevada.

"Certainly I have big shoes to fill," said the Reno Republican. "I am looking forward to the challenge. I hope to be effective."

Brower, 46, was appointed by the Washoe County Commission on Jan. 18 to serve out the final two years of Raggio's 10th Senate term. Raggio, 84, retired citing health problems.

Brower, who turns 47 on Tuesday, hardly is a political unknown. He was an Assembly member in the 1999 and 2001 sessions, even being named the best freshman in his first term.

He also is a former Navy lieutenant who served two years as the U.S. attorney for Nevada and periodically has been mentioned as a possible candidate for one major office or another. He prefers to see how the 2011 session goes before deciding whether to run for a full Senate term in November 2012.

Brower said he isn't going to be a clone of Raggio, a moderate who repeatedly voted for taxes and insisted legislators would have to tax again in 2011.

"Bill would be the first to say I need to do what I think is right," Brower said. "I have looked at the governor's budget. It is important to pass the budget without raising taxes. I support the governor. We have record unemployment. The gaming industry took a big loss in the last year."

Raggio called Brower an "excellent choice" when he was appointed and advised him to keep an open mind.

"I understand the position everyone is taking about the budget and taxes, but in the end, people will do what is right to provide essential services," Raggio said.

Brower will serve on the Education, Health and Human Services Committee and the Select Committee on Economic Growth and Development.

But he and new Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, are the only legislators who have not been given a morning committee assignment.

Since Democrats hold an 11-10 majority in the Senate, they are entitled to chair every committee. Most committees have seven members; but for Democrats to keep all chairmanships, one committee was cut to five members, leaving Brower and Halseth on the sidelines before the 11 a.m. Senate floor sessions.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, initially had not been given a morning assignment, but he now will serve in Raggio's place on the morning Senate Government Affairs Committee.

With two children in school and his wife a former teacher, Brower has a special interest in education and favors reforms such as ending tenure and social promotion, along with letting school districts decide how to handle class-size reduction and other programs.

"We need to give them more autonomy. The governor is on the right track. Business as usual is not working. Some say we can't improve education and save money, but I don't think that is true," Brower said.

In his spare time, he likes to spend time with his family. Both of his daughters are competitive swimmers, and he and his wife like to attend their racing events. Family members also enjoy skiing, golf and other outdoor activities.

Although he is a longtime Reno resident, Brower grew up in Las Vegas. His mother and two sisters still live in Southern Nevada.

In his job as a lawyer with Snell & Wilmer, he also spends a lot of time in Las Vegas.

"I will enjoy comparing notes with my colleagues from Las Vegas," Brower said. "It is amazing how big the place is now. It is my hometown, but Reno is my adopted hometown. We really love living here."

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.


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