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Stan Colton, former Nevada state treasurer, justice of peace, dies at 85

Updated May 2, 2024 - 8:33 pm

Longtime Searchlight resident Stan Colton, a prominent political and legal figure in Southern Nevada and friend of the late U.S. Senator Harry Reid, died April 25 in Henderson, his family members said.

Colton, 85, died of cardiac arrest at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, Sienna Campus in Henderson in the presence of his wife, Kate, and his daughter, Kimberly Colton Bosnos, according to Bosnos.

Stanton Benjamin Colton grew up in the mining town of Searchlight, which the Colton family founded in 1897, the year his grandfather George Colton staked a claim on the now-closed — and still Colton family-owned — Duplex Mine that once yielded gold ore, said his son Bradford Colton.

‘Always a standup guy’

Stan Colton, who also lived in Las Vegas and Carson City while serving as state treasurer, was known as a town elder in Searchlight frequently sought out by residents for his sage advice, said Bosnos, 55, who is a CPA.

“He (Stan) was the go-to person,” she said. “He knew people and what to do. He had so much knowledge in politics and voting.

“People told him he was too honest of a politician,” she added. “That’s how he ran his life, just being honest and up front.”

“My dad was always a stand-up guy,” said Bradford Colton, 54, a mechanical engineer.

One of those seeking his counsel was Reid himself, a Searchlight native who phoned Colton and visited his home in the small town, accompanied by Secret Service agents, when Reid served in the Senate because “they had the same values and morals,” Bosnos said.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1938, Stan Colton joined his family in Searchlight, about 50 miles south of Las Vegas, and eventually attended Nevada Southern University (now UNLV) with his friend James Bilbray, who became a state legislator and a member of Congress, Bosnos said.

Bradford Colton said that his father boasted of his part in introducing Bilbray to Mikey, who later became his wife, while they were students at Nevada Southern.

That story evolved to ‘I am responsible,’” said a laughing Mikey Bilbray, who remembers it differently. “He was kidding.”

She recalls going to freshman orientation at age 17 at Nevada Southern in 1959 when Stan Colton was class treasurer and James Bilbray was class president. James Bilbray asked her out to a school dance after seeing her there, and they were married a few months later, she said.

Stan, she remembers, was telling all the freshman emphatically that they had to wear their “beanie” caps to denote their class.

“I said, ‘I’m not wearing that, messing up my hair,’” Mikey Bilbray said she told him.

Stan Colton and James Bilbray, both Democrats, were good friends, and with Mikey and Colton’s late wife Suki, socialized together frequently, going out to dinner and lounge shows to see entertainers such as Wayne Newton and Don Rickles on the Strip.

“It was a wonderful place to be in the 1960s and ‘70s,” Mikey Bilbray said.

When James Bilbray died in 2021, Stan Colton and Reid delivered the eulogies at his funeral, she said.

Political aspirations

After graduating from college, Stan Colton joined a detective agency, founded by his mother, Gayle, as an investigator, then was hired to do investigative work for the Clark County district attorney’s office in Las Vegas, according to Bradford Colton.

The family started the Colton Searchlight General Store in 1967, with Stan Colton taking part in its operation, before they closed it down in 2007 and offered the space for lease, Bosnos said

In 1972, Stan Colton was appointed registrar of voters for Clark County and embarked on a long career in politics, winning the statewide election for treasurer as a Democrat in 1978, despite not having a financial background, Bradford Colton said.

While treasurer, Stan Colton earned the state good rates of return on its investments and created the state’s first-ever bond issue, Bradford Colton said.

In 1981, Stan Colton considered challenging state Attorney General Richard Bryan in the party’s 1982 gubernatorial primary, then said he would run for reelection as treasurer instead, “citing his lack of experience in state government and party unity,” according to a 1982 article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

But supporters urged him otherwise, launching a “draft Stan Colton for governor” movement in Carson City and Las Vegas, prompting him to run anyway in 1982 against Bryan, who won the nomination and defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Robert List that November, according to the Review-Journal.

Stan Colton left the treasurer’s office in 1983 and used his newly obtained financial knowledge to work for the investment firm Prudential-Bache (now Prudential Financial) for years, Bosnos said.

Instrumental in new library construction

Stan Colton and Bilbray founded the UNLV Alumni Association, with Bilbray serving as its first president and Colton as its third president, Bradford Colton said.

His father managed the capital construction program for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, successfully overseeing the building of 21 new libraries before retiring, he said.

More than two decades ago, he agreed to come out of retirement to do the same job for the city of Henderson and managed the development of the Paseo Verde Library, at 280 S. Green Valley Parkway, according to Bradford Colton.

In the years since, Stan Colton served as a justice of the peace in Searchlight and a justice pro tem and chaired the Searchlight Town Board before moving from Searchlight, after more than 25 years, to Henderson three years ago, Bosnos said.

Her father, also active in a number of charity groups, including as president of the Henderson Rotary Club, told her “to be a role model for morals and ethics and honesty,” Bosnos said.

Stan Colton was preceded in death by his first wife, Suki Colton. He is survived by his wife, Kate; adult children Tyler Colton, Kimberly Colton Bosnos and Bradford Colton; his daughter-in-law Dawn; grandchildren, Kendall, Colton, Haley and Cody; and stepchildren, Cyndi and Kellie.

The funeral service for Stan Colton is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday, at the Palm Boulder Mortuary and Cemetery at 800 S. Boulder Highway in Henderson.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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