September 5, 2007 - 9:00 pm
If a Hall of Fame existed to honor former elected officials, Bruce Woodbury, the longest-serving county commissioner in Nevada history, would be shoo-in. Provided he ever leaves office, that is.
Take a glimpse at the veteran politician’s statistics: 26 years, five months and 21 days on the Clark County Commission, seven elections with landslide victories, zero ethics violations.
During a time when federal prison is synonymous with the term Clark County commissioner, Woodbury was credited Tuesday by colleagues and family with being an honest leader who they believe can rehabilitate the county’s tattered reputation.
After receiving a standing ovation, Woodbury, in typical fashion, downplayed the achievement. A slight smile flickered across his face as he offered a brief, soft-spoken speech.
“I’ve worked with 27 different county commissioners,” Woodbury, 63, said quietly. “The legacy of a few of them is not what we’d want it to be, but the majority of them were honest, dedicated public servants.”
Woodbury’s legacy outshines the commissioners who served by his side in recent history: Erin Kenny, Dario Herrera and Mary Kincaid-Chauncey were convicted of pocketing bribes from strip club owner Michael Galardi. Lance Malone pleaded guilty to delivering the bribes.
Former Commissioner Lynette Boggs was indicted last week on charges of perjury and filing false documents. And former Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates is being investigated on allegations that she improperly used campaign contributions.
On Tuesday, Woodbury surpassed former Ormsby County Commissioner Peter Martin Crow as the state’s longest-serving county commissioner by one day. Crow served Ormsby County, which is now called Carson City, from 1918 until 1945.
Second to Woodbury, the longest-serving Clark County commissioner was Thalia Dondero, now a university regent. Dondero sat on the commission from 1974 until 1994.
Woodbury led the way on two of the greatest challenges that faced Southern Nevada when the Las Vegas Valley’s population started to explode in the 1980s and 1990s.
He worked toward developing and then expediting the 54-mile Las Vegas Beltway, which allows commuters to avoid traffic-logged freeways. That included championing ballot questions in 1990 and 2002 that are paying for the Beltway.
Woodbury earned the nickname “father of flood control” after he helped establish the Clark County Flood Control District in 1986. The district developed a 450-mile network of flood channels and retention basins that significantly reduced the number of deadly flash floods that struck the valley.
Woodbury was also credited with listening to average citizens rather than cater to special interest groups anddevelopers.
In 1993, Woodbury authored the Clark County Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which prohibits increases in property tax rates without voter approval. When homeowners complained that billboards littered the county’s highways and blocked views of the mountains, Woodbury introduced a moratorium on billboards in unincorporated Clark County. That led to controls over their placement.
Despite nearly three decades on the state’s most powerful governing board, Woodbury acknowledged Tuesday that his lifestyle hasn’t changed much since the day he was appointed.
He drives a 1989 Lexus that authorities recovered after he was carjacked at gunpoint in the parking lot of a Las Vegas casino in 2001. The odometer reads 279,000 miles. He still lives in the same Boulder City home he built in the mid-1970s.
“It’s my nature; I resist change,” Woodbury said.
He demonstrated Tuesday that he does not resist humor as colleagues and family took their shots.
“The only mistake I think Bruce has made in his lifetime was registering as a Republican,” said commission Chairman Rory Reid, a Democrat.
After Commissioner Chip Maxfield, an engineer, questioned why Woodbury did not choose engineering as a career, Woodbury’s wife, Rose, told the audience that would be impossible.
“I learned this when we were first married and were putting up curtain rods,” she said, adding that he had problems even hammering in nails.
“He is so funny. He’s so quiet. And then he says something that will knock you on the floor,” Rose Woodbury later added.
When asked about becoming the longest-serving commissioner in the state, Woodbury said dryly, “All I had to do was hang around here longer than anybody else.”