Sandoval ready to take office as inauguration ceremonies loom

CARSON CITY — The temperature probably will be in the upper 20s, and there could be a lot of snow on the Capitol grounds, but Brian Sandoval is downright sunny about Monday.

He will be sworn in as the state’s 30th governor in front of the Capitol by Nevada Chief Justice Michael Douglas.

"I have a favorite overcoat," Sandoval said Thursday. "I’ve had it since my days in the Legislature, and I may need it on Monday. It’s going to be a fine day. If it’s too cold, we just will move the inauguration indoors."

Sandoval has been an assemblyman, chairman of the state Gaming Commission, attorney general, a federal judge and at age 47 will become the state’s first Hispanic governor.

He grew up a fan of history, someone who loved reading about Abraham Lincoln; but he said he never imagined he would become governor of Nevada.

His isn’t going to be a gloomy administration, one that accentuates the negative, but one where everyone works hard and has a goal of returning Nevada to prosperity, he said.

"I’m optimistic," Sandoval said. "Nevada’s best days are ahead. I am passionate about Nevada."

He said he already is seeing positive results. He spoke Thursday with a business­man in another state who has agreed to move his company to the Reno area, but won’t announce the company’s name just yet. He predicts many more businesses will be moving to Nevada.

Every day when he reports to work in the governor’s office, Sandoval said he will set aside time to call business owners in other states about relocating to Nevada.

His inaugural address, which he wrote with the assistance of senior adviser Dale Erquiaga, won’t last much longer than 10 minutes. The speech will be carried live on many television stations, and can be viewed on the state’s website.

Sandoval said all of the 25 people he has appointed to head state agencies and serve in key posts in his administration also are passionate about Nevada. That was one of his requirements.

Only seven of his appointees have Southern Nevada backgrounds.

That doesn’t mean that Southern Nevada will be ignored, he said. He spent most of his gubernatorial campaign in Las Vegas and intends to spend a considerable amount of time there as governor. He noted that as attorney general and as a federal judge, he spent a lot of time in Southern Nevada.

Sandoval is a religious man, a devout Catholic who attends Mass and prays regularly for guidance.

"Faith for me is a personal thing. I go to church every Sunday. I sometimes (while a judge in Reno) would sneak away and go to 12:15 p.m. services. My faith is important to me."

His wife and three children are Lutheran. Early in their marriage, the couple decided to raise the children as Lutheran.

Before he is inaugurated Monday, Sandoval and his family will attend a 9 a.m. special Mass at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Carson City. The public is welcome to attend, although the priest does not want photographs taken in the church. Services will end about 10 a.m.

Sandoval is firm on what he will not tolerate in the coming year. Increasing taxes would be the worst thing a governor could do at a time when un­employment is 14.3 percent and state government faces at least a $1 billion revenue shortfall, he said.

"It is no mystery," Sandoval said. "There will be salary cuts. Budgets will be reduced."

But he said he will take the same cuts as any other state worker, as will members of his staff. He said he will return 4.6 percent of his $141,000 annual salary to the state. That is equivalent to the one unpaid furlough day per month that most state employees now are required to take.

It also will reduce his salary to about $133,000, or nearly $40,000 a year less than he earned as a federal judge, the lifetime appointment he gave up 15 months ago to make a run for governor.

While he won’t discuss his budget now, Sandoval said it will not include his controversial proposal to sell state buildings for a large sum of money and then lease them back by making mortgage payments for 20 years.

But he said he will talk with legislators, unlike Gov. Jim Gibbons, who would make political statements and seldom follow them up by meeting with lawmakers.

Sandoval, a Republican, said he already has met with state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, both D-Las Vegas, and intends to meet regularly with them and other legislators.

"I am going to listen," he said. "It is what I did as a judge. You listen and then you make the decision."

His first state dinner will be for legislators at the Governor’s Mansion only a few hours after he is sworn into office.

Family members are coming from New Mexico, Oregon, and other states to watch the inauguration. His wife, Kathleen, and children, James, 15, Maddie, 14, and Marissa, 6, will be at his side on the podium.

Sandoval said he cried at Christmas after reading a letter written to him by Maddie in which she described how proud she was of her father.

Marissa really doesn’t understand what being governor means, but she is fully aware "that a lot of people want to talk to me when we go shopping at the supermarket."

Former Govs. Robert List, Richard Bryan and Bob Miller have accepted invitations to attend the inauguration.

Gibbons won’t be there. He has a medical procedure scheduled for Monday. Gibbons suffered a broken pelvis when thrown from a horse on Sept. 21.

Sandoval said he has not spoken with the governor since a debate in May. He defeated the incumbent governor by a 2-to-1 margin in the June primary.

"I think there will be a time when we can talk," Sandoval said. "Right now he is still recovering from his accident."

The Sandoval family won’t move into the mansion until after the inauguration. They are moving from their Reno home with their four dogs, cats and a frog, but won’t be accompanied by their pet rat Bolt.

Bolt, age 3, died unexpectedly on Christmas Day. Sandoval and his wife hurriedly disposed of the rat’s body before Marissa could see him.

"He had a good life," Sandoval said. "I used to feed him pistachios."

Sandoval grew up on a small farm outside of Sparks, raising lambs and chickens. His parents instilled in him the value of hard work and gave him his faith. He hasn’t forgotten their lessons.

"What you will get in him is honesty, I am sure of that," said Ron Sandoval, a former state Senate sergeant of arms who is the new governor’s father.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.

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