SOS Miller answers phone, makes history

People who make a practice of ignoring weekend calls from work might want to take a lesson from Secretary of State Ross Miller, who made Nevada history on Sunday merely by answering the phone.

Miller, son of former Lt. Gov. and Gov. Bob Miller, became the second half of the first father-son duo in state history to serve time as acting governor, a largely ceremonial duty that arises when the governor, in this case Gov. Brian Sandoval, is out of state.

Miller, who as Secretary of State is fifth in the line of succession for the governor’s job, got the call to serve because the governor was in San Francisco attending the football game between the University of Nevada and Boston College.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki was unavailable to serve, as were Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, also president pro tempore of the senate and third in line, and Assembly speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.

That meant the job fell to Miller, who was there to answer the call from Heidi Gansert, Sandoval’s chief of staff.

As lieutenant governor during the administration of Gov. Richard Bryan, the elder Miller served as acting governor on a number of occasions, including in a permanent capacity after Bryan was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988.

Having a father and son each fill the role "was a first for Nevada," said former state archivist Guy Rocha, who is the expert source for Nevada trivia questions the younger Miller regularly posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Ross Miller didn’t attempt any major actions during the few hours he spent with the title.

According to Nevada law, the acting governor would only be authorized to make real decisions if the elected governor is unable to communicate with others, something that rarely occurs in the cell phone and Internet age.

Another item of note for Nevada geeks, Rocha said in earlier decades the line of succession didn’t go five deep so there would have been no provision for dealing with so many officials out of state or unavailable at the same time. 

Nevada’s line of succession was expanded in 1947 after a plane crash in Oregon killed that state’s governor and other officials, prompting concerns elsewhere that succession rules extend deeper.

Rocha said he wasn’t aware of when or how many times the role of acting governor has fallen to the secretary of state level.

"It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened," he said.

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