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AN INTERVIEW WITH NEVADA'S LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, LORRAINE HUNT

From a talented musical child to professional singer, restaurateur, shopping center builder and owner, and then into politics. An American success story.


By: Bob Rind

I attend many functions, and in doing so I meet many interesting and newsworthy people. In the past few months I've crossed paths with our Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt. From our conversations I found her to be a dedicated, friendly and very popular person. We arranged this interview pertaining to her political career to date and what the future holds for her.

Albert and Maria Perry came to Las Vegas from Niagara Falls, N.Y. when Lorraine, their only child, was three years old. They moved here for health reasons, to be in a warm, dry climate and because they had heard there were a lot of opportunities out west.

Lorraine attended Las Vegas High School and was a music major. She then went on to Westlake College of Music in California. Soon after, she entered the entertainment business as a singer. She also plays piano and writes music. With her own group, she performed at many major hotels such as the Tropicana, Sahara, and the Landmark. She also contracted musical groups that performed behind popular singers of that time.

While in high school, she had seen Blackie Hunt perform with his group and became a fan. Years later while performing, their paths crossed and a friendship grew. Eventually they married, and it is now 34 years of wedded bliss with three children and three grandchildren.

Question: What was your first political office and how did it come about?

"I was a Clark County commissioner before being elected to this office of lieutenant governor. I went from the music business to a small business of operating a tavern and restaurant in the early 70s. I also developed a shopping center on land I purchased when I was 19. At this time I became very passionate about small businesses as I felt that they were the backbone of this country. I saw things happening to the small business communities that to me were very oppressive and destroying these businesses, so I started fighting their battles--first on the local level, then on the state level. In 1986 I found myself elected as a representative to the White House Conference on Small Business for the southwest region. I was involved in government affairs, but I never thought of running for a government office.

"I was approached to run for a political office, that of the Clark County commissioner, and after giving it some thought, I decided to run, and I won. Blackie showed me how I could continue my work if I held that public office."

Question: What made you decide on running for lieutenant governor, and what are your responsibilities?

"The lieutenant governor's main job is promoting tourism and economic development, and I felt my experience and background would be better employed in this capacity."

Ms. Hunt's main support for her outstanding passion to help the small businesses, especially minorities, came from those communities. Financial support came from family and friends, and as her campaign momentum picked up, many big businesses contributed. They liked the idea of an astute business woman in government.

Question: Do you vote on state government issues?

"As lieutenant governor I don't vote, but I can break ties as president of the Senate. I do vote as chairman of the Nevada Commission of Tourism, chairman of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, and vice-chairman of the Nevada Department of Transportation."

Question: How is your relationship with Governor Kenny Guinn, and how often do you talk?

"We have an excellent relationship. I greatly admire him. He is an outstanding governor, a real CEO. It's the time in our lives we need a governor like him. We talk almost daily."

When I asked Ms. Hunt if she thought that being lieutenant governor was a big stepping-stone to becoming governor, she said yes, but it was too soon in this term to even think about it. Another term is coming up in two years, and her sights are set on that.

Presently, her big concern is economic development. Since she took office, there has been great success in the motion picture and film industry that the state never had before. The economic influx since she took office increased from $57 million to $125 million in two years. The figures for this year's first quarter exceeded $50 million.

Question: Have you personally been involved in having specific legislation passed?

"In the last session of the legislature, I fostered two bills, one for intellectual property for the high tech industry and state-of-the art legalization to protect individual property. Another bill was to help promote the tourist industry, especially in the rural areas of the state."

Question: In many states the governor and lieutenant governor run as a pair, but not in Nevada. What is your thought about this?

"I feel they should run as one so that a close cohesion of party policies and thoughts are the same. This would eliminate possible conflicts."

Ms. Hunt's opinion on the minimum wage in Nevada is that any real increase will definitely affect the cost of living. Most hotel employees work for tips and are not overly concerned about the minimum. Small businesses would get hurt the most. She also is in favor of Gov. Guinn's medical program pertaining to prescriptions. You may call her office for an application.

As far as the leukemia scare in Fallon, Ms. Hunt is very concerned because it is hindering the economic development of the area. Investigations are ongoing, but no conclusion has as yet been reached.

Question: How many personal appearances as lieutenant governor do you make?

"Eight, 10 a week, sometimes more. I basically wear five hats, and therefore I'm invited in those different capacities. My office receives thousands of requests, and we try to rotate all over the state as best we can. We do a lot of driving."

In the wake of recent terrorist actions, Ms. Hunt's opinion is that any location could be a target, but with conversations with Metro police, local F.B.I. and hotel security teams, all precautions are in place and are very strict to prevent any type of disaster here in Las Vegas.

Ms. Hunt as a Nevada business woman is president of Perri, Inc., managing member of the Piazza Shopping Center, the first woman to chair the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and numerous other boards. In addition, she is a director and past president of the Nevada Restaurant Association, and director, Nevada Hotel-Motel Association.

Awards and honors include Republican Woman of the Year, 1996; Free Enterprise Award, 1993; Governors Conference on Tourism-First Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993; Nevada Restaurateur of the Year, 1992; Nevada Small Business Advocate Award, Small Business Administration, 1989; and the first Governor's Award for Excellence in Business, State of Nevada, 1987.

For additional information about the lieutenant governor's projects including The Nevada Technology Partnership, contact her office at (702) 486-2400.