EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an occasional series about new lawmakers in the Legislature.
CARSON CITY — Eight years ago Ben Kieckhefer took a seat in the press gallery in the rear of the state Senate chambers as a reporter covering the Legislature for The Associated Press.
This Feb. 7 he will walk to the front of the chambers and be sworn in as a Republican state senator representing Washoe County’s Senate District 4.
Who would have imagined that?
"One of the most wonderful things about Nevada people is they take you as you are," he said last week.
"I knew nothing about Nevada, nothing about Nevada politics when I moved here. We have a lot going in this state. This is a state where the dreams of individuals and individual freedom are alive, and a state that turns a sensitive eye to those who need help."
Kieckhefer might be a freshman, but he also probably knows more about the day-to-day operations of state government than any senator.
He spent most of the last three years as a state employee, first as the press secretary to Gov. Jim Gibbons and then as the spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services — the agency that runs mental health, welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and other programs for the needy.
His state experience is one reason why Senate leaders assigned Kieckhefer to serve on the upper house’s Health and Human Services Committee.
He also will serve the Finance Committee, a plush assignment for a freshman, and on the new Select Committee on Economic Growth and Employment.
He plans to sponsor legislation calling for a creation of a sunset commission — made up of nonelected people — that will review operations of state government agencies to determine if they are efficient and necessary.
Kieckhefer also has a bill to revamp the Millennium Scholarship program. Instead of giving the $10,000 scholarship to all bright high school graduates who enroll in any college program, he would limit it to those who major in education or in programs needed to fill job shortages as determined by Commission on Economic Development.
After they graduate from college, millennium scholars would be required to work five years in Nevada, or pay back their scholarships if they don’t.
Kieckhefer said he is "very friendly" with Gov. Brian Sandoval and supports balancing the state budget with existing revenue.
"We need to look at the state as a whole," he said. "See how much we have in tax revenue and how it best can be spent."
As the father of two sets of twins, Kieckhefer said he seldom has free time, but feels blessed to have a large family.
When he has time away from the kids, he enjoys reading classical American literature and taking advantage of outdoor activities in Northern Nevada.
"I can be in a chairlift skiing 30 minutes from my front door and then go golfing in the afternoon. We live in a great place," Kieckhefer said.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.BEN KIECKHEFER
Office: state senator
District: Washoe, District 4, which includes part of Carson City
Constituent contact: 775-223-9618 or e-mail:
Job: communications and public relations consultant.
Family: wife April and four children, 4½-year-old twins, Aspen and Austin, and 1½-year-old twins, Lincoln and Lucy.
Education background: Bachelor’s degree in English from DePaul University in Chicago, master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Quotable: "I am a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs (a baseball team that last won a World Series in 1906). The Cubs have taught us fans many lessons, particularly patience. Patience is a virtue, but it doesn’t always pay off."
Free time avocation: When Kieckhefer isn’t helping take care of his children, he enjoys literature, particularly reading classical American authors like Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald.