Carl Dodge Oral History - Part 2 of 2
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
An Interview with
CARL F. DODGE
June 7, 1994
This interview is part of socioeconomic studies for Churchill County's Yucca Mountain Planning and Oversight Program.
Museum and Archives
University of Nevada
Oral History Program
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
Carl Dodge was born in Reno in 1915, but moved to Fallon with his family when he was five years old. The Dodges became successful farmers and ranchers. They also founded a construction company which took on projects throughout Nevada and Utah, and later helped build the Fallon Naval Air Station. Following graduation from the University of Nevada, Carl earned a law degree from Stanford and then served in the Navy during World War II. Returning to Fallon after the war, he purchased the family's Island Ranch. In 1958 he was elected to the state senate for the first of six consecutive terms. His distinguished service in the legislature ended in 1980 when he resigned to take a seat on the Nevada Gaming Commission. He remains active in public life.
Carl Dodge's oral history explores several subjects. Chief among them are: changes in agriculture and irrigation practices in Churchill County over time; the origins and economic impact of the naval air station; real estate development and construction in Fallon; and principal pieces of legislation that Mr. Dodge was associated with in his twenty-two year career in the state senate.
SA: The date is June the 7, 1994, and this is Sylvia Arden, interviewer for the Churchill County Oral History project. Let's discuss your long years of public service. Good morning, Carl, it’s so nice to see you again and to start our second session this morning. Today we’re going to start with your long career of public service. Let’s start first with your role on the board of trustees of the Churchill County School District.
CD: In 1955, the legislature passed a piece of legislation which said that when a school district reached twelve hundred students, the school board would be expanded from five to seven members. One night following that, about eleven o'clock at night, I got a call from the chairman of the school board.
SA: What year was this?
CD: That would have been in the fall of 1955. He said that they had reached that point in enrollment and they needed to appoint two members to the school board on an interim basis, and he wanted to know whether I would be willing to serve. I didn't have any reason not to, so I told him I would do it. That's how I first got involved in any public activity. I then ran the next election for the school board. Ken Tedford was the other person appointed. He is still alive here. So, he and I both filed and I ran for a short term, two years. We were unopposed, but we both got a very good complimentary vote. He got about fifty votes more than I did, but they were good votes. And I think that's what encouraged me to get into competitive elections. My dad always told me that I needed to be careful about my own personal conduct because there were a lot of people in the community that were jealous of the fact that we had four or five ranch properties and the construction business. So I had no idea, up to this point, about how I, as an individual, might be received in the community. On the basis of that good complimentary vote in that election, I decided in 1958 that I would run for the state senate. I didn't have any what I would call extraordinary experiences on the school board—I was finally chairman of the school board, and I enjoyed the service—but it encouraged me to run for the senate. I want to go back a little on that. In 1941, just before the war, after I got out of Stanford Law School, I went over to the first session of legislature. I went over there two or three times. I was always fascinated by legislative process; I'd talk with the senators; they were a lot of very colorful people. I made up in my mind in 1941 that someday I wanted to try to be in the senate. In 1958 I decided that I was going to run for the senate. The person who had been in the assembly for many years, Eric Palludan, whose voting record I liked very much, was well regarded in the community and I didn't know whether I could beat him or not. But he made the mistake of just campaigning out of his business time. [laughter] He had a mercantile business downtown, and he never got out to personally contact the voters. I covered practically every residence in Fallon. I beat him two to one.
SA: So that was for the senate. For the board of trustees did you run again and get elected?
CD: Well, no. In ’56, see I ran for the short term and that was it. I had been appointed in 1955. 56 I ran and got the good complementary vote, even though it was not contested. And that’s what then encouraged me in 1958 to run for the senate.
SA: Did you participate on the board of trustees with the school?
CD: Oh yes. I did. I was a very active on the board, actually, and, as I say, wound up to be chairman of the board.
SA: I see. Was there anything you can remember that occurred during that period?
CD: No, nothing extraordinary.
SA: So then do you want to continue on with the senate?
SA: So you ran for election, tell me in some detail about that.
CD: Well, as I told you, I practically called on every residency in the community.
SA: Did you have a group of supporters helping you do that?
CD: No. No. I did that pretty much by myself, because at that time I hadn't been involved in politics; but I did get support from the community. As I say, it went back to that complementary vote. That’s what encouraged me, because I had always remembered and I wasn’t sure [laughs] what it was gonna look like. Lay my neck on the line and how I’d be received.
SA: Tell me about election day and when you learned that you won. Can you describe that feeling?
CD: It particularly was an impressive win because as I say, this guy – Eric Palludan – was well regarded and I liked him. I liked his voting record. So I just didn’t know. You never know.
SA: What were some of the things you ran on that also helped you?
CD: I didn't have any particular program at that time. People knew that I had been educated as an attorney, and they knew I'd been active in the community—I guess they just judged me for whatever experiences I'd had here at that point in time. I didn't really have anything in the way of governmental background from which to base a campaign at that point in time, other than just serving on the school board.
SA: Tell me, as you were watching the results, how you felt and where you were and . . . .
CD: Well, they counted the ballots down at the county clerk's office in the court house, so people would just go down there and, you know, they were . . .
SA: You didn't have a group of your family and supporters together the way it is today?
CD: No. It was a small community. In later times, of course, it was different.
SA: And you were a young man?
CD: I was forty-three when I was elected.
SA: Your whole life changed?
CD: Well, it did in a way. The sessions at that time were a lot shorter than they were in later years, And they were biannual sessions in Nevada, not annual sessions, so the legislature was not in session every year. The Republicans were in control when I was first in the senate and I became chairman of some of the committees. One of the early things that happened to me is . . . . At that time the licensing of motor vehicles in Nevada was done in the counties. It was not centralized. And so we were trying to set up a centralized system. The transportation committee in the senate was handling that type of legislation. We had some problems with some legislation that we originally passed (which I was not involved in as a committee person), being ruled unconstitutional. Governor [Grant] Sawyer came into that particular session in 1963 and said that the biggest challenge the legislature had was to try to get the motor vehicle legislation straightened around. So the Republicans asked me to chair that committee, and I didn't have the benefit of the background of what had happened on earlier legislation. So I told them I would do it as long as they didn't expect me be in any other committee meetings for thirty days. I said, "Give me thirty days, and I'll work on it all the time and see if we can't find a solution to the problems that existed," which I did. I didn't attend any other committee meetings, but whenever we weren't in session I was doing background work on this piece of legislation. The end result was that we developed a plan - that was in the early days of computerization. We developed a plan for a centralized, computerized, mail-in motor vehicle registration system. The problem before was that in these counties, people were standing in lines to register their vehicles. You'd go up and they'd have to type all the stuff. It was a horrible inconvenience for the public.
SA: And they had to travel distances within this state…
CD: Well, no, within the counties. But in the county clerk’s office people would stand in line take care of their motor vehicle registrations. Then we had some other aspects of the legislation that needed to be addressed, and the end result was that we developed a real good piece of legislation and it's really worked. It was tooled to the future.
SA: Now this was the state?
CD: The whole state motor vehicle registration. It was tooled to the future and it is now. The principal opponent of the legislation was the assessor down in Clark County. It was in the assessor's office where vehicle registration was handled, and he had a little political machine of his own. He had fifty clerks down there that were doing all this business, so he kept throwing up smoke screens about this legislation. We passed it in the senate and sent it over the assembly. This was my first contact on any legislation with a person who I feel that was the best legislator Nevada ever had, a man named Jim Gibson from Henderson. He came to me when the bill was over in the assembly. He was from Clark County, and a lot of these Clark County legislators were wondering, you know, how to vote on this, because the assessor had been campaigning against it. Jim knew nothing about the legislation. He asked me more penetrating questions about that piece of legislation than anybody asked me. I couldn't believe the depth of this man's analysis of that bill. And so anyway, after I responded to him, he said, "Well, you know, it's important for me to know what I should do because there's another four votes in here depending on my judgment of what we should do. Do you see any weaknesses anywhere in the legislation?" I said, "No, Jim, I don't, I think it's going to work and I don't see a defect in it anywhere." So, as a result, the bill was passed.
SA: What year was that?
CD: That was in 1963, and that was one of the landmark pieces of legislation which I was involved in. Normally, there wouldn't be any public knowledge of the importance of it, but the size of it was that . . . it was a system that would handle any numbers of vehicles through this computerized, centralized system. Anymore, why all people have to do when they get their notices of renewal is just mail them back in and they get their renewals.
SA: I can see a big benefit in isolated counties, it's a long hard trip to get to the assessor's office out on ranches.
CD: Well, not only that, but imagine these people sitting at typewriters manually doing these things. That was before the time of computers pretty much. Anyway, that was in my opinion one of the best pieces of legislation that I ever worked on successfully.
SA: I want to bring you back to when you first started. You went to Carson City and lived there every other year for how long a period of time? Where did you stay, and did Betty go with you?
CD: Well, that's a good question. At the time, the sessions were lasting maybe ninety to a hundred days, and our children were still in school here. I commuted, driving back and forth because I didn't want to be staying in a motel room by myself over there. And the other thing, the committee demands and that sort of thing were not that intense at that time. And so I could leave here at seven or seven-thirty in the morning, have a committee meeting at nine, and get away from there by four-thirty or five in the afternoon.
SA: How long was the drive then?
CD: About an hour, and hour and a half.
SA: So that’s not too bad. And you could bring work home?
CD: Yeah. So until the time that our children got out of school, I commuted. Rarely did I have to stay overnight; and after that, Betty and would take an apartment, or one year we rented half of a duplex for years, and the children were away at school, so as the demands got greater, it just worked out to stay in Carson during the sessions and come home on the weekends. So, it worked out fine, and we enjoyed the social affairs and . . .
SA: Tell me more about the activities of the senate while you were senator—issues that were raised related to Churchill County, especially if there's anything that relates to the water issue, the land issue, or Lahontan Dam.
CD: There were hardly any issues at the time, as far as problems with government and the Bureau of Reclamation and so on that we are experiencing now. But one thing that did develop that I could foresee, fortunately, was the plan to transfer water rights. The Bureau of Reclamation took the position that they had to approve the transfer. If you wanted to move water rights from here to somebody else's piece of land, or an adjoining piece of land, you had to get approval from the Bureau of Reclamation. I thought that, sooner or later, it would be determined that the state water engineer would have that authority. So in the session of 1979, the last session that I was in the senate, I wanted to try to get a piece of legislation passed that would give the local boards, like the TCID board, some authority over these transfers. We had what we called the Irrigation District Act in Nevada, and there were three irrigation districts in Nevada—one in the Yerington area, this one, and one in Lovelock. So I went to all the irrigation district boards before the session and got their support for a piece of legislation which said that before the state engineer could transfer any water rights, there'd have to be an approval by the local irrigation district board. I had the state engineer's support on this, because he was looking for guidelines in administering anything as to water. So he went to the hearing with me, and the district attorney from Carson City showed up at the hearing (this was in the senate) and objected on the basis that he didn't think anybody should have a veto authority over something like that.
CD: The people that were on the senate committee at that time were not really that knowledgeable or conversant about agricultural water rights. They were more impressed by what the district attorney said than what we were trying to do, so I wasn't getting any support for that bill. I only had one other person there who was trying to do something with it, but he couldn't generate any interest with anybody else. One night I woke up in the middle of the night, and I thought about a different way to approach it; and that was with a piece of legislation that said the state engineer would not change the manner or place of use of the water if it resulted in a lower efficiency of water delivery or resulted in a higher cost to the remaining water users. The next morning I called the state engineer, Roland Westergard, and said, "I think we can accomplish what we want this way." And he said, "Well, I agree with you." I then drafted a second bill and then I went and spent an hour with the district attorney in Carson City pleading with him not to oppose this piece of legislation. He never said, yes or no and I didn't know when I left whether he was going to come in on that; but he never showed up, so I got that bill passed. And the interesting sequel is that the United States, after they started buying water rights in here, was trying to get around having to pay the O & M [Operation and Maintenance] annual charges, because if they didn't pay the O & M charges on the water rights they bought, then that would reduce the financial ability of the district to operate, and they have a lot of fixed costs out there. And so when they start buying this land and they sent it to the state engineer for a change in manner and place of use down in the wetlands, he was not approving them [laughing] because they hadn’t finalized this deal on paying the O&M. And this went on for two or 3 years.
SA: What year did this pass?
CD: The bill passed in 1979, the last session. Then the next year, at the Alpine decree on the Carson river, a federal judge was asked to rule about who had the authority on these transfers. He ruled that the state engineer had the authority. Later on, when the government started buying these water rights, they'd send them over to the state engineer and he wasn't doing anything with them. Finally, after about three years, they caved in and they're now in a forty-year contract to pay their share of the O & M costs. [laughter] So, I think that's a wonderful piece of legislation.
SA: What a satisfaction. Before we go into other issues on the senate, while you were in the senate were you still managing your businesses here?
CD: Yes, I was.
SA: So, you were carrying a couple of hats during that time?
CD: Yes. I was. Because as I told you, I was home on weekends.
SA: Yes. Also it was only every other year. Did it start to come every year?
CD: No, no, no. It's never been on an annual basis. We've had a few special sessions in Nevada in the off years, but they're special sessions. They're not regular. But I was home on the weekends, and I had a foreman at the Island Ranch. If I hadn't had him, I couldn't have served over there. But I did, and I was home on the weekends, and he and I would plan what we wanted to do. The work with the construction company didn't interfere at that point in time necessarily with my serving over there.
SA: And it sounds like you had the capacity to manage a lot of things at that time
CD: Yeah, as long as I had people. So I was able to do that, as I said I came home every weekend. Usually on Friday afternoon.
SA: I want to hear more about that period, sticking with the senate.
CD: After reapportionment, the one man, one vote . . . . We had one senator for each county prior to that, regardless of population. One of the widest disparities in America was here in Nevada. Storey County, with Virginia City, had about seven hundred people and one state senator, and Clark County had about 225,000 at that time, represented by one senator. [laughter] After reapportionment, Clark County had a majority of the population and it's been growing. Now they have about sixty-five percent of all the population in Nevada down there. Then they had a lot of senators and assemblymen from Southern Nevada. It was a Democratic county, and, in general, the Democrats had been in control of the legislature ever since that time. So I got into a minority position politically, as far as committee chairmanships and that sort of thing, which was all right. I worked on important committees. [end of side a]
CD: Well, anyway, I always served on the judiciary committee, having a legal background; and on government affairs, which was an extremely important committee in the senate; and usually on taxation. So, over the years that I was in the senate, which was twenty-three years, I literally got involved in thousands, absolutely thousands of pieces of legislation. But it was all very interesting, and I tried to make my contributions in the committees, which I think I did. And I just enjoyed the process.
SA: Are there any before the major school support tax? Were there any issues that effected… on taxation or?
CD: No, not landmark things that I authored.
SA: Do you want to get into the school support tax now?
CD: Yeah, I will. That’s a very interesting thing. In 1955, in the same piece of legislation which spoke about expanding the school boards, a different formula was adopted for public education in Nevada. It was done by Peabody State Teacher's College. (Don't ask me where that is.) But anyway, these people supposedly knew a lot about school formulas. In the early 1960s, we begin to find out that this formula was not working, because we were having to make special grants to certain school districts which just simply didn't have enough money to operate on. The legislature, in 1963, appointed an interim committee to review the school formulas. That's when the Republicans were still in control in the senate, and I was asked to chair that interim committee. The committee was comprised of legislators and educators, and I think there might have been maybe a dozen people or so on that committee. We had several meetings during the interim, between sessions. It became obvious to me, finally, that politically we could never make substantial changes in that formula without additional revenues, because for every winner on the present revenue base, there were going to be some losers. You know, it was just slice the pie a different way. Some people would get more and some less. And you could never get the political support of the people who got less. I went back in the 1965 session and reported to the legislature that I thought they ought to continue the interim review, but that I felt that what we were going to have to do is try to develop an additional source of revenue so that nobody would be a loser. The challenge was, where to get that money? Anyway, when I would drive across these long stretches of Nevada [between Carson City and Fallon] highway by myself, all I'd think about was how I could put that deal together. Hours and hours and hours I'd think about that. I finally began to piece together an idea of how to do it. At that time we had a two percent state sales tax, so I developed the idea of what I call the local school support tax, which originally was proposed as one percent. It was a sales tax, but it was not part of the state deal because it sought a different origin. It didn't go into the state general fund, it went back to the school districts.
SA: It stayed in each local region?
CD: That’s right. Fortunately, in Nevada, the school districts, by virtue of the 1955 legislation, became coterminous with the counties. Like here, we had a lot of little rural school districts, but in 1955 they were all consolidated into the one Churchill County School District.
SA: So the funds, then were controlled through that one district, for all those little schools.
CD: That’s right. The interesting thing about this was, it made the sales tax feasible because you could account for it accurately, don't you see? Because at that time, each county was reporting the sales taxes to the state. And, where the school districts encompassed the same area, it was easy enough to determine the allocation that should go back to the schools. For example, at that point in time, the two percent sales tax was raising about twenty-four million dollars a year. So it was easy to figure that the one percent tax was going to raise, at that point in time, twelve million . . . half of it. So, that was the premise upon which I figured the additional revenue. I got a man to work with me the last few months just before the 1967 session.
CD: The other thing I thought we needed to do was to conduct an interim study and we decided gaming industry could stand an increase in taxes. So part of the plan was to pass that piece of legislation first.
SA: Which piece first?
CD: The gaming. Additional tax on the gaming industry.
SA: Some of it to go to the schools?
CD: No, this would go into the general fund of the state of Nevada. Then process this one sample of a school support tax. So, I introduced a bill to increase the gaming tax by twenty percent. There's two or three different taxes on gaming. There's a slot tax and there's a gross revenue tax, but the net result would be a twenty percent increase in the revenues on gaming. I also introduced a bill and Paul Laxalt, who was the new governor had a bill that I introduced for him. It was also at about a twenty percent level, but a little different breakdown on how the revenue would be produced. So we had those two gaming tax bills in, and then I introduced my school support bill and we put it in the taxation committee. We agreed that we'd just let that bill sit until we got the gaming tax passed and signed by the governor.
CD: There wasn't much said about my bill early on, and we hadn't taken any committee action. This is an interesting, personal situation: One of my good, close friends, he’s still alive, Mahlon Brown, he represented Clark County as a single senator when he was representing the 225,000 people. [laughs] He had been a JP [justice of the peace] down there and he was an attorney. He was a wonderful guy. So he's on a taxation committee and he was pretty sympathetic to the gaming industry, and he was trying to hold their tax to twelve percent. And I wasn’t buying any of that. One night in a committee meeting, late in the afternoon about 6:30 or so. Jim Gibson was the chairman of this committee—he'd come over to the senate from the assembly by that time. We were sitting around the table and he started talking about this gaming tax. "Well," he said, "I would support a twenty percent increase.” By bill was 25%, Laxalt’s was 20. “Maybe I'll just take a poll of the committee and see how all of you feel." He took a poll of the members around the table, starting on his left. Coe Swobe said yes to the increase. Joy Christensen said he hadn't made up his mind, and this was sixty days into the legislative session. When it got around to me, Mahlon Brown asked me if he supported the 20 percent increase in the gaming tax, would I support the school tax? While I had authored the school tax, I had never committed to vote for it. At that point I did commit to support it, even though my own Churchill County School District was not in significant financial trouble. He said “if I support the 20%, will you support the school tax?” And I said “Yes I will” So that night we passed out the gaming tax bill for the 20%.
CD: Another funny thing [laughs] about this Joy Christiansen, after we got the meeting over – we had this little meeting room that was upstairs in the capital building and he went back to his desk on the floor of the senate. I went over to him and I said, "Joy, these things aren't easy, but this is no time for a faint heart. When these decisions gotta be made, they gotta be made.” He said, "I know it, but I got a faint heart." [laughter]
CD: [section cut out] The governor signed the bill, and this is getting along late in the session, and we brought out the school tax. This was a few days after [the meeting] we agreed on the timing that we would bring the bill out of the committee. So the committee voted a "do pass and bring it to floor." [Do pass = a committee recommendation to pass and enact the legislation.] Don Perry was this guy’s name who was working with me. When it got to the floor, the senate called itself into a committee of the whole and asked me to explain the bill to the senate. It had no publicity, so I did. I responded to questions, and finally somebody asked me if I could see any weaknesses in the bill. I said, "Yes, there's one. I don't actually know how to handle this. I had to take the historical cost base in each school district as I found it. And, assuming there are inequities, the cost base does not necessarily correct those. I don't know exactly how to correct it."
SA: You were very honest.
CD: Yeah. So anyway, lo and behold, the guy who was then handling the financial work for the state department of education had been working on this deal. This guy's name was Lincoln Listen. He had come out of the Clark County School District. He was their financial guy and he came to the state department. I knew him, but I didn't know he was working on it. He gets up and he says, "Well, I've been following this piece of legislation, and I have done some work that I think addresses the inequities." What he did is very simple. We had a column of state support for each school district that was just expressed in dollars. He had another list. The committee of the whole amended the bill and put in his figures. I don't remember if it was that day . . . I don't think it was, because then we scheduled it for a final vote within a day or so. The bill passed. We had twenty senators at that time, and the bill passed thirteen to seven. I had not lobbied the bill with anybody, and about ten minutes later I got a call from Laxalt's office and he wanted to see me. I went down and he threw his arms around me. It was his first session. He had not authored it and he knew he was home free between the gaming tax and this local school support tax. The interesting thing is I had been on a plane with him earlier . . . I was flying with him to Las Vegas one night, this was in December, when I had this thing pretty well put together. He had been elected in November. I was explaining this to him and he wasn't savvying it at all. I think he thought I was smoking opium. [laughter]
SA: That gained you respect, probably, from then on.
CD: Oh yeah, he was so pleased. Then the bill went over to the assembly, and that was the only time that I was ever invited over there to address a piece of legislation. And that was a committee of the whole of the assembly. So we spent an hour, an hour and a half or so, explaining the bill over there, and they passed it by a larger majority than we did in the senate.
SA: Is that still in effect?
CD: Oh you bet. I’m gonna get to that. But anyway, then the attorney general at that time—he was a nice guy, but he wasn't the most brilliant lawyer that ever came along—was asked by the senate whether it was constitutional, and he said it wasn't; that it was a violation of the state two percent sales tax. Any change had to be approved by the people. We won't go into that reason, but that was the case. I'd researched that earlier, and that was the first thing that they tried to find out. We had a real good bill drafter, a good constitutional lawyer, Frank Daykin, and he concluded that while it was a sales tax, it was a different piece of legislation that stood on its own, and did not in any way interfere with the state 2% deal. I always felt it was constitutional, primarily because the money sought a different destination—it did not go to the state general fund; it went back to the school districts. The attorney general in Nevada is constitutionally charged with defending executed pieces of legislation in the legislature, so this guy had gotten himself in a difficult position, because he'd already said it was unconstitutional. So he appointed Daykin and the chief of the division, Russ McDonald, who was a Rhodes scholar at the University of Nevada and went on as the attorney to represent him in the hearing before the supreme court, about the constitutionality. I had gone to the chief justice of the supreme court in May sometime, and we passed the bill . . . maybe before the middle of May. I told him, "We need to have a ruling on the constitutionality of this bill before July 1, because it would be a disaster if we implemented it and then found that it was unconstitutional. I would appreciate it if you could give it an early consideration." He said, "We'll do it." So, it went over to the supreme court, and they set a hearing within a couple of weeks after that. Harvey Dickerson, the attorney general, found himself in a position where he had already made his own ruling. We appointed two guys from the legislature as our attorneys to represent him in the hearing. The court ruled, two to one, that it was a valid piece of legislation. The other judge said it was a violation of the state two percent law. The next day some reporter asked Dickerson what his reaction was. He said, "Well, one judge and I held it was unconstitutional, and the other two said it was constitutional, so it was a Mexican standoff." [laughter] We got by the legal hurdle and it became a law.
SA: And I hear it was also named the "Dodge Law."
CD: Yes, it was. And there was another piece of legislation which has always borne my name, which I'm going to talk about, that was in the next session. So, that's the story of the school support act. The sequel is that in 1989 I was given a Hall of Fame award by Junior Achievement of Northern Nevada. I wanted to find out what the performance of that formula had been over the years in Nevada, because it was enacted in 1967. We were talking about 1989, twenty-two years later, so I got ahold of the head of the research division in the legislature and I asked him if he had any information recently about how this formula compared in the United States with other formulas. They sent me some information, the latest of which was that in 1986 there had been a national review of all the states on the formulas. They took three different approaches in determining the equity of state formulas . . . equal dollars behind each student. And Nevada was number one, after over twenty years—number one in America on two of the formulas and number six on the third.
SA: Oh my…
CD: Now, the beauty of this piece of legislation is that it was a moving formula. It needed to be reviewed every session for its equity, and there are two changing conditions in the school district that could affect their costs. One is the tax revenue, whether it's up or down. For example, in the mining counties in Nevada, it was either chicken or feathers. They'd have a lot of revenues when mines were operating and then nothing. So, the revenue base changed. The other factor was the per pupil cost. I had determined early on that where you consolidate students in an urban area and have completely full classrooms, you minimize your cost per students. In Elko County—a big county with very cold winters, where they had a lot of little country schools, and each teacher was serving a handful of kids—the costs are higher in a county like that. So this formula will work forever if it's properly administered, because it will always be taking into consideration the changes in each school district's revenue base and in its cost base.
SA: If the revenue is way down, then do they get funding from another source?
CD: From the state, out of the state distributive school fund. This was the whole purpose of that state distributive school fund. That was the equalizer for school districts, don't you see? Where they didn't have a local ability. So it’s a beautiful formula, it’ll last forever if properly administered. The interesting thing too, Later, Linc Liston told me that with the old formula it used to take one person six weeks to make the quarterly allocations to school district. With this formula, it took him four hours.
SA: This Junior Achievement business leader Hall of Fame award was specifically for that?
CD: No. Just in recognition of my public service. But this was the highlight, really, of my public service.
SA: So since you’re talking about that, and we will get to these other things, this then was one of the top awards? Where is the hall of fame? Is there a place?
CD: It’s out of Reno, in northern Nevada. Junior achievement is for the young people.
SA: When you help young people?
CD: Right. And so this is just an acknowledgement of public service. This one here, actually, I thought was the best one. My own university [University of Nevada, Reno] in 1981 gave me an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree in recognition of my public service. That's pretty much the story, and I'm so gratified that I had the ability and the dedication to get that job done. That's by far the most important thing I could ever do for this state.
SA: Well, one thing that I felt in reading that was that you had – and have – a sincere deep interest in children’s education and schools.
CD: Oh, it’s so fundamental!
SA: And this was nothing political about it. This is from a sincere…
CD: Oh no, nothing political about it. I knew how important it was. It was a deal where we’d had all these experts come in from outside the state at different times with these formulas that finally didn’t work, so it was a case that I had to do it myself.
SA: Well that was a wonderful contribution. [End of tape 5]
CD: In that same session of 1967, there was a piece of legislation which was enacted which in effect set up bargaining rights for firemen in Nevada. Up to that point in time, there was no legislation which mandated collective bargaining. This was the first bill that surfaced with enough support to pass. It was passed by the legislature, assembly too, but I argued against the bill on the basis that, if we were going to do something like this, we should not be singling out firemen, you know. It should also apply to other local governmental employees. So anyway, Paul Laxalt vetoed the bill for the same reason that I argued. He said, "Look, if we're going to get into collective bargaining, let's do it for other people besides firemen." What was happening is the school, particularly the education lobby, was gearing up to get in the act, particularly after this bill had gotten that much support. And I knew in 1969 that this stuff was coming, that other groups were. We'd had some problems with a piece of education legislation that every teacher in Nevada must have gotten in their two bits worth, and it was a horrible piece of legislation as far as trying to clean it up. Just horrible. You know, it was just a disjointed piece of legislation. There was too many different ideas, some of which weren't even consistent.
SA: The teachers legislation that was messed up, was that during your tenure?
I think this was back maybe in 1965 or so. But I could see this sort of thing coming in Nevada, and I thought, "Well, rather than to have to work with a bad piece of legislation coming in, if in fact something like this is going to be supported, I'm going to work for a piece of legislation that's got some consistency."
SA: And what year was this?
CD: Yeah, earlier. I think that was back in maybe 65 or so. But I could see that kind of thing coming in Nevada. So I thought rather than to have to work with a bad piece of legislation coming in, if, in fact, something like this was gonna be supported, I’m going to work on a piece of legislation that had some consistency. So that summer-
SA: What year was this?
CD: That would have been in 1968. Collective bargaining for governmental employees was developing nationwide. The education commission of the states had a meeting on this subject in Denver. And at my own expense and time, I went to this meeting. I was trying to gather ideas about how to put a bill together, and there were some very interesting discussions. But the best thing I did was to spend about an hour with a guy who had been the chief school officer in the state of New York. He later became the United States Commissioner for Education and while serving in that job, he was killed in an airplane accident. I'd researched it, and I found that they had a piece of legislation in the state of New York that involved teachers only during his time. So I knew he knew quite a lot about it, from his own experience. He gave me some thoughts and precautions. When I came back, this was in the summer of 1968, I started working with Frank Daykin in the legislature, who was a good legal mind. He had researched the whole country, and at that point in time, there was not an all-encompassing piece of legislation. In Canada, and some other places, there was legislation for firemen and policemen. In some places, there were some pieces of legislation for teachers, but nothing that was an all-encompassing piece of legislation. So, we put together a piece of legislation that covered all local government employees—counties, cities, school districts, and so on—but I could never figure out how to include state employees. I would have, except that in Nevada at least, and I think it's true in most states, they really have to bargain directly with the money committees in the legislature. That's what it's finally all about, the money. And I don't think that any bargaining deal that's carried on otherwise can bind a legislature as far as the amount of money they appropriate for public education, I just don't think that's even constitutional. So I couldn't figure out how to do that. I was always criticized because I didn't include the state employees, but it wasn't because I was trying to preclude them. I couldn't figure how they could be involved in that sort of deal where they had to bargain with the legislature for the money, and that's what they had been doing all the time. That bill and these other bills came in during the next session, just like I figured they would. The teachers had one, and the firemen and the policemen had one. It was my bill which was finally approved by the committee, and then passed by the senate and the legislature. People thought that I was out of my mind, a conservative authoring a piece of legislation like that. They really did. [laughter] They couldn't believe it. And you know, it was placing the authorities in these various areas in a position where they had to bargain, and they were very unhappy about that, believe me.
SA: Tell me, what was in this bill?
CD: Well, the thing that was in the bill was basically for a mandate that the local government employers had to bargain with their employees. Before that, the school boards came to the hearings on this bill and said, "Well, you know, we got these procedures set up with the employees and we meet with them all the time." The problem with that sort of thing was that they were at sufferance—the local employees were at sufferance to their employers where there was a school district. They were not on an equal footing.
SA: I see. They could talk to them, but they didn't have to be bargaining?
CD: Yes, that's right. They were just at the sufferance of the employer. And that's the thing that the employees objected to. The Local Government Employees Bargaining Act is also called the "Dodge Bill." Maybe more so now than even the school bill.
SA: What was the vote? Was it close?
CD: It wasn't real close, but it wasn't an overwhelming majority either, because there was a lot of reluctance, as you can imagine, in the legislature to get into an area like that.
SA: Is that still in effect today?
CD: Oh, you bet, and it set up all the good provisions about reviews. There was a local board that would have review procedures, and there was a provision for an appeal to the courts. It had all the good provisions in it. All of them.
SA: Does it deal with the health insurance or anything like that?
SA: Just the salary?
CD: No, these were just authorities to deal in those areas. That involved the bargaining with them.
SA: I see - they can go to their employers and say “look we want health insurance.”
CD: That’s right. This just set up the mechanism for that. The other interesting thing about the bill, which was really not essential [laughs], but this is interesting . . . . we had - I think it was during a session in 1967, right toward the end of the session - a one day shutdown of the schools in the Reno area, and all of the teachers came over to hammer the legislators over the head. They didn't call it a strike, and they were only out the one day, but they shut the schools down for a day. They boiled over the legislature and they were really fired up. After we passed the bill, of course, well, then they had to set up formal bargaining procedures. The other thing that we did is . . . . We had never had a strike of public employees. That was the closest threat, but that was the message in 1967, and we've never had one since, and the reason is I put a kicker on the back end of the bill, which didn’t have to deal with the mechanics in this bill, that said that in a court review, the employees would be provided representation by whatever group was going to represent the majority of employees . . . the firemen, the policemen, and so on— but it provided depending on the severity of the strike – well first of all, strikes under the common law were illegal, because common law said you couldn't strike against the king. Originally, the only authority that courts in America had was common law, which a lot of our law was based on. And in this case, I guess the courts could have hung their hats on the common law; but we wrote a provision that said, depending upon the severity of the strike and the lack of justification, a court could award up to $50,000 a day against the striking organization, and $5,000 a day against their officers. We've never had a strike in Nevada since 1969. [laughter]
SA: Well, you may have made some enemies in the party, but I bet you made hundreds and thousands of friends from the workers.
CD: Oh, I did. I did. Yes, I did.
SA: That's amazing.
CD: The interesting thing was that this was the first all-encompassing negotiation act in America. The first one!
CD: We never could find another one that covered everybody. I don't know whether any state has one now that covers everybody in the same piece of legislation.
SA: So you were a pioneer. If there is, they researched and followed yours?
CD: Yes. Yes.
SA: That's an amazing story.
CD: So, that has been a landmark piece of legislation.
SA: I see that you were a senator from 1958 to 1980. Is that the longest term that any senator served? That's a long time.
CD: I don't know. It's one of the longest.
SA: And it was always elective. They had to keep voting for you.
CD: Yes. Well, I stood for six elections, which would have been twenty-four years . . . four-year terms. In three of them I had contests, but in the other three, I had free rides, which spoils it [laughter]
SA: How do you get free rides?
CD: Well, nobody filed.
SA: Oh, I see. No one filed because they knew they couldn't win?
CD: Yes. So that spoils it.
SA: No, that's a compliment.
CD: When you don't have to work? [laughter]
SA: That's a wonderful compliment, right.
CD: But what happened in 1980, right after the election, I was in midterm. I was not involved in the election in November, 1980. Late in November, Bob List was the governor of the state of Nevada; I was a Republican and he was a Republican. He called me early one Saturday morning, and he said, "Can you come over to the mansion this morning? I want to talk with you. I've got to leave here about ten; can you get over here before that?" And he’d called me about six-thirty, a quarter to seven, It only takes about an hour to drive over there, so I guess I got over there about eight-thirty, a quarter to nine. I’m trying to remember the circumstances… He had a vacancy on the gaming commission. A CPA named George Schwartz from Las Vegas—a good man, a young man raising a family—had decided to resign from the commission because he wanted to be able to do accounting work and auditing work for gaming companies, and he couldn't do it while serving on the commission.
SA: It would be a conflict of interest.
CD: Yes. George resigned and left a vacancy. That [the commission] has to split politically. There can be three from one party and two from the other. Well, it can't be all Democrats or all Republican. Anyway, this was a Republican slot that he had to fill. I went over there and we sat down in his little study at the mansion. He said, "You know, George Schwartz resigned from the commission. I got to fill that vacancy. I started out with a list of a hundred names. You know," he said, "right now, I think that the commission is a little weak." The guy that was chairman of the commission at that time was Harry Reid, who is now the senior United States Senator from Nevada. Anyway, he said, "I got down to you from a hundred names. I figured that I needed a real heavyweight to try to strengthen the commission. I think you're it." I said, "Well, governor, I agree with you." [laughter]
SA: Did you complete that senate term before . . . ?
CD: No, I had to resign. That's the only thing that I kind of hated to do. I had made up my mind I wasn't going to run again. Nobody knew it but Betty. But, we were facing a reapportionment, and there was going to be an enormous, sparsely settled, central district here in Nevada. And at my age . . . I was sixty-five then, and I didn't have the desire to ever get involved with a lot of new counties that didn't have the same communities of interest and all that sort of thing. I knew what was going to happen on that reapportionment. I told Betty, "You know, this is the end." I also told Bob at that time. I said, "Well, Bob, you know, I'd like to serve." See, with that session . . . my last session was starting in January and this was in the latter part of November. I said, "I'd like to serve that out." And he said, "Well, the circumstances are I got to fill the appointment now." He had to fill the appointment; he couldn't wait. So I said, "Well, let me go home and talk to Betty about it. I will be in touch with you." So, I came home, told Betty about it, and we made a decision that I'd go ahead and accept the commission appointment, which I did. Then, as I say, I had to resign from the senate.
SA: Now, how long would your term have lasted if you just ran the full term?
CD: Well, it would have lasted another two years.
SA: Oh, that's a long time.
CD: Well, see, it was a four year term. We were in the middle of the term of the election just passed, so it would have lasted another two years. I would have had twenty-five years of service instead of twenty-three.
SA: So then would there be an appointment for the rest of your term?
CD: Yes, there was an appointment.
SA: Then another question before you go into the Nevada Gaming Commission - Apparently, if you agreed to leave the senate, that must have been a very, very important commission.
CD: It's the highest profile appointment that the governor of the state of Nevada makes; chairman of the gaming commission.
SA: Oh, and you were chairman?
CD: No, I was not. No, and I should have mentioned that. He said to me, "Harry Reid's term is up in April. He wants me to reappoint him, but I'm not going to do that. If you'll come on as a member, I will make you chairman in April." I don't think I would have gone on otherwise.
SA: OK. I can see why you agreed to that. Now, I want you to go into that Nevada gaming commission. Especially for researchers who do not live in Nevada, and these interviews are going to be used widely and going into major archives. I want you to explain, in detail, what the commission did, and a little bit about gaming and the changes while you were there.
CD: Well, basically the gaming commission is charged with two or three responsibilities. First, they have to determine the suitability of applicants for licenses. That's the biggest job they have. They also have to pursue violations of gaming regulations with licensees.
SA: Complaints come to the commission?
CD: Yes. Or investigations. See, they have an investigation staff of their own. And, of course, the commission has the authority, actually, if they find that they need to do it, to just pull a license . . . to revoke a license.
SA: And you're an attorney.
CD: Yes. And there were a couple of other attorneys over my time that were on the commission and who were helping. But it has different types of responsibilities—work permits for gaming employees, an investigation division, and an auditing division. The heart of gaming is in auditing gaming companies to monitor their internal control procedures and to be sure they're complying with how to safeguard the money, from the table to the counting room and all that sort of thing. There are a lot of things involved with that. It was an interesting experience for me. It was different, but not all that foreign to me. In April I was appointed chairman for the following year. Then there was a vacancy for a Democrat and List called me up and asked me if I could suggest some names. He wanted someone out of Washoe County, the Reno area. I got ahold of the registration list in Washoe County and went through the whole list. I had not been around the Reno area since I got out of college, but I knew a lot of people. But, there were also a lot of people I didn't know. I developed a list of four or five Democrats that I thought had the qualifications. I went over one day and gave him the list, and he said, "Do you know Skip Avansino?" And I said, "No, I don't." "Well," he said, "he's an attorney in Reno. He's a Democrat . . . a registered Democrat. I had him do some work developing a trust for my folks. He's a very capable guy. I've been thinking about him." He wound up appointing Skip. (Raymond was his first name, but he was called Skip.) The day that he announced Skip's appointment, I went over there. We had a press conference.
SA: Had you met Skip before this?
CD: No I had not. Anyway, after the press conference, I took Skip over to the gaming control board offices and introduced him around. It turned out that we became very close, personal friends. He is a very capable guy, and is now president of Hilton Hotels.
SA: How old was he at that time?
CD: Oh, he was a pretty young man. He had children . . . the oldest child, when he first went on the commission, was only about ten years old. He must have been in his early forties, and highly educated. He had about three different degrees, including one from Italy in law. He was a strong man on the commission. He and I used to visit about a lot of this stuff and we got to be close, personal friends. He was great, a real nice personality, and we got along fine. I always enjoyed the personal relationship with him. He finally resigned from the commission in the middle of the term. He got to a point where . . . I don't know all the reasons, but he didn't want to continue.
SA: Well, if he took on hotels, that would be conflict of interest.
CD: Well, yes. But, this was later. I was going to mention this part. After he got off the commission, he did a little investigative work for Hilton that led to the dismissal of one of the heads of one of their hotels. Skip did the whole investigation. He said to me, "You know, I think that maybe I might have an opportunity to get on Hilton's board. If I needed it, would you give me a letter of recommendation?" I said, "You bet I will." So, I came back to Fallon and I drafted a letter, which I sent to him. But, in the meantime, I don't think that he had to use those. I think the Hilton was impressed with what he had done so they appointed him to the Hilton board on his own merit. And this is the whole system. The hotels and the gaming . . . the whole deal. And, at a later point in time, they made him president of the company. And so Skip had to move from Reno . . . his headquarters is at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.
SA: I want the nuts and bolts of your role in the Nevada Gaming Commission. Number one, how often did you meet, did you go to the gaming places? Las Vegas and Reno would be two , but there would be many other places. Give me the nuts and bolts of the meetings, the time you spent and some of the changes while you were on the commission.
CD: I think we met once a month.
SA: And where would you meet?
CD: We met sometimes in Las Vegas and sometimes in Reno. I think, as a matter of fact, we alternated pretty much. We'd have a meeting in Reno. They also had control board offices in Las Vegas. They didn't have space enough there, but they had another place where they had their hearings in Las Vegas. So we alternated. And up to that time, I don't think that people, particularly the chairman of the commission, ever even stayed in hotels where there was a gaming license. I'm not sure of that. But, they didn't have much of a relationship with the licensees. They felt, I think, they needed to stay apart.
SA: Yes, sure. Not to become friends.
CD: And, for all of the control board employees, that was an absolute rule. They couldn't stay anyplace where there was a license when they went to these meetings or were on investigations. I took a different tack, because I felt that these people were our partners—which, in the state of Nevada, they are, because of the revenue aspects that the state enjoys from licensees. So, one of the first things I did was to set up . . . . One month that we had the meeting down there, the Wednesday before the meeting, which was on Thursday, I made appointments with the eight top casino executives in Las Vegas. They came to the control board offices. They accommodated me, and I spent about an hour with each one of them.
SA: Where was your office?
CD: It was in the control board offices in Las Vegas. The Gaming Control Board is a two-tiered system. The first level of approval is the control board [end of tape 6 side A] –Conducts the investigations on applicants and people that are already licensed. The final level of approval is the Nevada Gaming Commission, which I chaired.
SA: Is this office in a separate building or . . . ?
CD: No, their quarters were in rented space in Las Vegas and Reno. We don't have a separate office. They had one attorney on the staff that was designated to represent the commission at each commission meeting.
SA: But what was your mailing address if people had to send you complaints?
CD: Well, they would go to the central office in Carson City.
SA: Oh, in Carson City. And then would they direct the communications to you?
CD: Well, no. What happened on these deals is that we would get summaries. For example, I was involved in the Sinatra licensing soon after I got on the board, and it was an enormous investigation. That has to be paid for by the licensee. And that was conducted in eight separate counties where he had performed, and all over the United States. It took about eighteen or twenty months to complete the investigation. Then we would get this investigative report, and it would go into all kinds of things about the person and his background.
SA: Were they looking to see if there was anything illegal?
CD: Yes. Or whether he was unsuitable by virtue of his associations with questionable people.
SA: Or if they've had any contact… I'm not talking about Sinatra, but if someone has had a prison record or…?
CD: Well, anything that might affect their integrity or their financial status. That's one of the big ones, their financial ability. And the control board in its hearing would ask a lot of questions and develop a record during its hearings. They'd get the transcript out right away, by the end of the week. Their meetings were on Thursday and usually, I'd have a . . . .
SA: They'd meet every week?
CD: No. Once a month. And I'd usually have a messenger out of Carson City, for example, hand deliver the transcripts to me by Saturday or Sunday following the Thursday meetings. We would know everything that was going to be on the agenda. Then we had the opportunity to spend a few days looking those deals over, including the record of their interrogation, and then we'd have that background when we went into our meeting the following Thursday.
SA: Now, did you make the final decisions based on the materials they gave you?
SA: I see. Did you, in any way, have to direct anything that you wanted as part of the investigation?
SA: They do that?
CD: They did it. That was their responsibility.
SA: OK. So your responsibility was when it came to you . . . .
CD: It was the final judgment.
SA: The final judgment. Did you ever have to meet the people, go to the gaming place, or do anything besides sit in a meeting?
CD: No. No. Just on the record.
SA: On the record . . . and mainly it was the people.
CD: Yes, that's right; particularly for licensing, it was the suitability of the person.
SA: So now, besides the licensing, what were some of the other . . . ?
CD: Well, as I told you, we had violation hearings, where we pulled licenses and fined people.
SA: So when you had hearings, people would have to come?
CD: Oh, yes. They were full-blown hearings. Yes. And these were all public meetings when the gaming control board met. That's a public meeting. Look, the way this thing happened is the investigations were confidential, but the public part of it was in their questioning and answers to develop a record, don't you see?
SA: OK. OK.
CD: But they never revealed their own sources. Now, there's one difference—when Atlantic City licensed gaming, which I think is absolutely wrong, they would show that background report to the to the applicant. That was crazy. One of the things you're trying to find out about is the guy's integrity. So what we would do is, we would ask him a lot of questions to see if we could trip him up on something that he didn't know was in the record.
SA: I see. Now, did you as chair run those hearings?
CD: Oh, yes. You bet.
SA: So there was a definite advantage to being an attorney. You would have to be an attorney to do that.
CD: Well, not necessarily, but usually you had to be an attorney.
SA: Now, back to when you got together these eight leaders of some of the big casinos. They came to that office, did you say?
CD: Yes. They did. Over to the control board offices in Las Vegas, and I had nice visits with them. I always stayed at a hotel, one of the licensee's . .
SA: And you paid for it?
CD: The other thing is that I personally called on whoever was the top management in the company while I was there just to pay my respects. And so, I still think it's correct . . . I don't know what they do now.
SA: Yes. As long as you're paying for your room and your . . .
CD: Oh, yes. Sure.
CD: Then as I say, I took the position that they were our partners. You know, we were interested in what they were doing and in their successes.
SA: Were there many hearings? Was there much corruption during that period?
CD: Yes, there was some. And of course, normally those things were properly developed in these investigative reports. And we were very leery of people that had any associations with unsuitables. Very leery regardless of what they might say. I remember guys that even withdrew their applications before we took action, where we were going to deny their applications. It was a pretty good process and it still is. Fortunately, there has never been any question about the integrity of gaming commissions in Nevada. You know, there's never been any scandal, which I think is a great testimony to the selection of the people that they put on that commission.
SA: They can't be bribed or . . . ?
CD: Yes. Right. And the kind of interesting sequel to that is that one of the guys I visited with that day was Bill Bennett from Circus Circus. I remember the conversation with him like it was yesterday. This was in 1981. And so… When did he call me, 1989.
SA: Let’s see, you finished your gaming in 1980…? Did you finish this in 1988 or 1987?
CD: 1983. There was a change of administration and a Democrat was elected and he appointed his own Democratic chairman of the commission. He was a good man, but this was the highest profile appointment in Nevada. So anyway, Bennett called me in 1989 and he said . . . this is kind of interesting, this conversation. He said, "We got an opening for an outside director in the company. I wondered whether you would consider it." And I said, "Well, I appreciate your calling me. You know, I was asked to be a director of Del Webb." Who was in the gaming business in Nevada at that time. You know, the big real estate developers?
SA: Aren’t they in the desert area where you are now?
CD: Yeah, Sun City, Palm Springs. And I said, "I didn't want to go on that board for two reasons. One, I thought they were losers in the gaming business in Nevada, which they were. They didn't know how to operate the gaming end. But the other one is that I do not believe in the revolving door theory, which is that the regulator joins the group that he has been regulating" I said I didn't believe in that, and he said, "Well, there's no more revolving door in 1989." [laughter]
SA: Well, here you are 6 years later!
CD: Right! Anyway, I finally told him that I would enjoy doing it. Primarily the reason I've enjoyed it is it's kept me active.
SA: Are you still on that?
CD: I'm still on it. He finally said to me, "Well, I appreciate it. You know, I wanted someone with an impeccable reputation," he said to me.
SA: Well, he got it. I have a lot of questions about that because I spend time in Reno a lot and I do a lot of research there. I also did some business in Las Vegas very recently, and I am just amazed and in awe of that Circus Circus enterprise.
SA: Aren't they the largest companies, creating the most places of any . . . .
CD: Yes, they have. Right now their stock is down. All gaming stocks are kind of taking a beating because of so much competition in the country. So I don't know what's going to happen to Circus or some of these other companies in the future against the competition.
SA: Well, tell me some of the, under the Circus Circus enterprises, because it’s been growing so rapidly, some of the new major hotels that have opened that are part of the Circus Circus?
CD: Well, why don’t we wait? We’ll get to that a little later.
SA: Alright, we’ll get back to that [tape cuts] Let's move back to some of your public service again, before we go deeper into the Circus Circus enterprises. What were some of your other major public service activities?
CD: Well, the only other one that I think about is in the session of 1985. Sue Wagner, who is now lieutenant governor of Nevada, started in the assembly and then she was in the senate. I always liked her very much. She authored a piece of legislation . . . we'd had some ethics legislation in the past, but this was a new piece of legislation setting up a Nevada commission on ethics. And it had some dedicated slots. One was for an ex-county commissioner. Another one was for an ex-city councilman. Another one was for an ex-legislator. They're called dedicated slots. So she called me one day after the session was over, and she wanted to be sure that she got a good commission put together to start this process. She asked me if I'd take that slot as an ex-legislator. And I- [there is a long period of silence here, which has been cut out from the recording. Transcript had “agreed to do that, and I was appointed as the first chairman of the Nevada Ethics Commission.” But this does not appear in the audio] Some legislation prior to that, which was a recognition, which was happening all over America, that some oversight of public employees about ethics in government. This was happening in Nevada, just as it was all over the country.
SA: Anything specific?
CD: No. No. It was just a general idea about honesty and government, and ethics and government. And it's getting to be a stronger issue all the time in this country. But anyway, because of my high regard for her and how important I knew it was, I told her I would take that appointment for a four year term. We issued opinions to people at all levels of government including legislators about ethical questions. We would have hearings with them which would be public, to a point, and their own deliberations about what they wanted to report were confidential. I then completed that term from 1985 to 1989 and helped her select a successor—an ex-legislator, Spike Wilson, in Reno. He's an ex-senator and he's well-regarded. He's still the chairman of the commission at this point in time.
SA: How often did you meet, where did you meet, what were some of the issues that were discussed, or new rules made during that period? I need more specificity.
CD: Well, we didn't have any regular scheduled meetings. We responded to requests for opinions.
SA: I see.
CD: And when we'd receive a request, we had a deputy attorney general who was our legal advisor. And we had an office in the secretary of state's office. We also had a secretary who was secretary of the commission, so all communications went there.
SA: You had to go to Carson City?
CD: Well, no—communications went there.
SA: I see.
CD: Now, we scheduled hearings depending on who was requesting. We had several hearings in Las Vegas on matters that had to do with people in Las Vegas . . . public employees or . . . .
SA: Without giving names, can you give some of the issues?
CD: Well, we had several legislative requests, you know, where there were conflicts of interest in their legislative activities against something they were doing in the interim. And in most of those cases, we upheld the legislator on the theory that Nevada's a part-time legislature and they're entitled to make a living doing whatever else they're doing.
SA: Because they don't get paid much?
CD: No. And it's not a full-time thing. And so they're entitled like everybody else to make a living. And as long as it was the type of an activity . . . if they were handling it properly, doing it properly, that did not raise ethical questions. But they wanted clearances. A lot of the early opinions we had were people that wanted clearances.
SA: To have it on the record.
CD: To have it on the record.
SA: Did they ever absent themselves from a vote if it was directly affected through their work?
CD: Well, you mean in the legislature?
CD: Yes. Oh, yes. A lot of people would abstain for personal reasons and there's also some legislative provisions about that sort of thing which guided them, too, as far as their legislative activities. In the early days of the commission -they're getting a lot more of these now than when I was on there. I had a neighbor over here that was on this commission for a while, and then the last I knew, they had a backlog of about twenty or so of these requests. And a lot of them were pretty serious things to be analyzed. [another long silent period. According to the transcript he continued “One of the first requests which we considered was a member of the legislature who was selling lots, and a newspaper article indicated that he was using his position in the legislature to generate sales. These two activities were tracking in parallel routes. Barbara Bennett, former mayor of Reno, one of the original commission members,”] - simply misconstrued at the outset of what this man was doing. The rest of us knew what the correct interpretation was. We discussed this, and it took us a while to get her straightened around on what the record really was, don't you see? But normally, once we all agreed on the factual situation, we didn't have too much problem about what decision we arrived at. And, of course, we were basically without too much precedent, so we were kind of plowing new ground, you know, on some of these things. During my time we didn't have all that many, as I say, and the commission has taken on a lot more importance since 1989. Now, it's a much bigger thing. That's about all I'd comment on that. She [Sue Wagner] appreciated the fact that I served, and I helped her in locating somebody else that was good . . . an ex-senator.
SA: Did you leave on your own because you didn't want to serve anymore?
CD: No, I didn't want to serve anymore. Originally, I didn't have that much enthusiasm about it, but I was doing it for her.
SA: To help her get it started. Do you want to put on record any other of your public service positions?
CD: No, I think that's mainly it.
SA: Then let's move on to more of your recognitions, and we'll get later to the rest of the Circus Circus director.
SA: But what other recognitions can you tell us about and put on record?
CD: Well, I always thought probably the most important one that I ever . . . well, the second most important one was this honorary doctor of laws degree that I received from my own university. See, I graduated from the University of Nevada in 1936, and then went down to Stanford to law school. In 1981 they [the University of Nevada, Reno] conferred upon me an honorary doctor of law degree at the university. The reason for that, in my opinion, goes back to the local school support tax, because there was revenue to help public education—it freed up more money out of the state general fund to go to the university system. They always recognized that and appreciated it. I remember Joe Crowley, who's president of the university, you know . . . I visited about this sort of thing, and he really appreciated what happened on that piece of legislation and its possible effects on the university's future.
SA: I'm sure they respected you, though, for all of your years in the senate and all of your other contributions.
CD: And of course it was my own university.
SA: I’m sure they’re very proud to name you one of their students! Describe the ceremony, when you received that degree.
CD: Well it was a graduation. They have also what they call “Distinguished Nevadan Awards,” which are a little lesser levels than an honorary degree. The other person at that time that they gave an honorary degree in Journalism to was Don Reynolds, who headed the Don Rey Enterprises, which owned at the time of his death, which was just the last year or so, owned about 50 newspapers around the country and four or five TV stations, extremely wealthy man. He set up a foundation with his money.
SA: At the university?
CD: No, his own personal foundation. Don Rey was not a native Nevadan or anything like that, but he had the Las Vegas Review Journal, which is an excellent paper. And he had done a lot for the university and particularly the school of journalism, so they gave him an honorary doctor degree in journalism.
SA: Well describe the ceremony.
CD: Well, first of all, we were in the robes. [laughter] It was a nice day. It was an outdoor graduation and there were statements made in his case and my case about our backgrounds and the reason for the recognition and the conferring of the honorary degrees.
SA: It must have been a big crowd. Did you celebrate after? Did you have a celebration?
CD: Well, no, not particularly.
SA: No, it was just another event [laughter]during the commencement exercises in May of that year.
SA: But I mean after you got that, most students go celebrate. Did you go celebrate with your family and friends?
CD: Well, some of the students might. [laughter] I'm a little too old for that kind of celebration. Later on, I got this honorary associate degree from the Western Nevada Community College. I helped create the community college system.
SA: Oh, you didn't tell us about that.
CD: Well, it was during Paul Laxalt's time, and Paul was running for governor and he was down in Pioche, Nevada, about two weeks before the election. He was running against Grant Sawyer, who was seeking a third term as governor. No governor has ever been elected to a third term, for one reason or another, in Nevada. So Paul, in Pioche, Nevada, talked about creating a community college system. I read it the next day in the paper and I said, "This guy is going out of his mind." All I could see was dollar signs [laughter] about the cost to the community college system.
SA: So you had to worry about getting money for the schools?
CD: Yes. So, anyway, he was elected. He appointed a committee to investigate an embryo community college deal that had been set up with local funds in Elko. And they had raised 100,000 bucks or so up there, and they started a little community college. So, we went up there. We had this committee, some legislators and educators, and we went up there and spent a couple of days in Elko. They had a pretty good program. They had people out of Oregon and Idaho who were familiar with community colleges. The more I personally became acquainted with it, I realized that although the whole committee had previously thought we had been doing a pretty good job for higher education on behalf of the sons and daughters of Nevada citizens, as far as education. But the fact was that we were offering nothing to about half the high school graduates, because they were not going on to college, or else they were failing in college.
SA: Yes, or they lived so far away they . . .
CD: Well, that was one thing, and then a lot of them got washed out of college in their first years and that sort of thing. So we came to the recognition that we ought to be doing something for students who, for one reason or another . . . either because they couldn't afford it or because they didn't have the intellectual attainment, at that point in time, to go on to the senior universities. And so we wound up creating the community college system.
SA: What year was it created?
CD: I'd have to go back in the statutes to find out.  This was after… No, it was during my time as a legislator that we set up the system, but the local community college came later.
SA: Was it like in the 1970s?
CD: I’ll have to look in the statutes. But, anyway, we created the system. One of the decisions we made concerned Elko community college wanting a separate board of regents. They wanted to be called Nevada Community College. [end of tape 6] We didn't go for that, because if we were going to set up one we knew that we had to accommodate the Las Vegas area (Clark County) and the Reno area and other areas in Nevada. We called them the Northern Nevada Community College, and then we created at the same time the Western Nevada Community College, which is headquartered in Carson City. And then later there was one created in Reno called the Northern Nevada Community College. I don't think that was at the outset, but originally there was Elko, Western Nevada and Clark County.
SA: Where did the money come from?
CD: Well . . . that was one of the problems. It had to come out of the university budget, and of course it substantially increased the cost of the total university system. Although community colleges are a lot more self-supporting, moneywise through whatever they charge . . .
SA: The tuition.
CD: Yes, the tuition.
SA: But how did they build the buildings? Isn't that the biggest expense?
CD: Yes. The legislature began to appropriate money for construction. Now, that leads me to what happened here in Fallon, which was a major effort. At a later point in time, this was after I was out of the legislature, the Nevada Community College was headquartered in Carson City. They had a branch here that was operating out of the local schools.
SA: They would meet in the schools at night?
CD: Yes, in their classrooms at night.
SA: That's a good idea.
CD: Yes. And so that's how it started here in Fallon. So, we wanted to try to create a separate college campus here. I had a lot of good friends who were on the finance committee in the senate, and I was trying to get the funds approved, as a capital improvement under the capital improvement program to start a college here. I failed in that session to get the job done. Some of the people on the committee came to me and apologized. They said they simply didn’t have the money to start a separate campus here. They were a little gun-shy of that. We decided in the interim that we had not been well enough prepared going into that session. What we did, we had developed a very good plan, whereby, through a local committee, we developed the statistical information on the participation in the local community college the way it was just meeting at night in school buildings and one thing and another. They've always had an enormous appetite here for that sort of thing.
SA: That's wonderful.
CD: And better than almost any community in Nevada. So anyway, we made presentations. We started at the university level with the board of regents, made a presentation to them because, see, they had developed their own priorities for a capital improvement program to present to the legislature.
SA: Did the university resent the start of community colleges because it took money from them?
CD: Well, in a way; but on the other hand, it substantially expanded their educational influence in Nevada because it was part of the university system, and it's probably the largest part now. Thousands of kids in these community colleges today . . .
SA: There are a lot from community college going to the university after two years.
CD: Yes, but it created a better stature for them in the long run. So anyway, we started with the university. We went to the agency that handles the capital improvements program for the state of Nevada. We went to them, made a presentation. We made a presentation to the governor who has to decide what he's going to recommend on these budgets, ultimately. And then finally we made a presentation to the next session of the legislature about starting a campus here, and that's when we got it on. And if we hadn't of done it in that session we'd never have been able to get it, because the money got tight and there were too many other demands.
SA: Tremendous contribution.
CD: Well, we got it started. I don't know whether you have been over there recently and seen the campus or not.
SA: No. I have to go over there.
CD: It's a nice little campus. I'll take you over if you . . .
SA: Good, good.
CD: But anyway, now it's developed into three buildings, nice little campus. Got about 1,100 students—not full-time, but individuals taking courses—and the whole system has gotten enormous recognition in Nevada.
SA: Wonderful contribution too. I think that is a major contribution to this state.
CD: Yes it is, yes it is.
SA: Because traveling up in that northern part, which is very far, it's hard for a lot of them to come down.
CD: Well, they're now trying to get one established in Winnemucca. They've been trying that for years. They haven't got that done yet. Maybe they will. But here in this area, for example, they serve Lovelock, Hawthorne, Yerington, and Fernley. It's a good system.
SA: Do they also have, as most community colleges do, some practical vocational courses? Do they have agricultural courses?
CD: Oh yes, oh yes. A lot of those, yes.
SA: Isn't that wonderful?
CD: Yes, they got a full offering really. Amazing. And they've got a good dean here and some good instructors. See, they have some full-time instructors and then they have a lot of people who just teach courses on contract for X number of dollars. That's how, because of my original participation, I happened to get this honorary associate degree.
SA: Was that also at a ceremony?
CD: Yes. In Carson City during a community college graduation.
SA: I can see you're very interested in education.
CD: Yes I am. I am.
SA: And I think that is so important. Let me get back now to your role as an outside director in the Circus Circus Enterprises. I wonder if you would tell us something about the enterprises and what you're learning and what you're doing as a director.
CD: Well, you know I never thought I would ever wind up in a position like this. It just never entered my mind. But, as I told you, I accepted it finally because it was something that kept me occupied, and it was a new challenge and a new experience, and it has been a nice experience. And I want to tell you a little about Bill Bennett. He and his partner Bill Pennington bought the Circus Circus originally from Jay Sarno. But, they were not the builders of it. They were attracted by this concept of a family entertainment deal for the kids, and that's why the circus deal . . . . Bill Bennett was originally in the furniture business and the restaurant business in Phoenix. He went bankrupt one time, and I can't tell you which business it was, but anyway, he told me that he had, at one time, owned a restaurant down there that made more money than any restaurant in America. So, he was a food man. He's always been a food man. He understands menus, and a lot of things about the food business that most people in gaming never knew. I think that's a lot of why you were, maybe, impressed by the way the food operations were run. And he had been in the gaming business in Nevada. He came from Phoenix and started at Lake Tahoe working for Del Webb. That's how he started in the gaming business. And he was in Las Vegas managing a casino when this opportunity came up to acquire Circus Circus.
SA: Did it first start in Las Vegas before Reno?
CD: Yes, the first Circus Circus was in Las Vegas, and then later the one was built up here. But anyway, so that's a little about his own background, and he told me that Jay Sarno had some real problems as far as connection with unsuitable people. And he was not doing any good with Circus Circus, so they bought it, I think, on a shoestring deal. And he told me that . . .
SA: They, is that Bennett?
CD: Bennett and Pennington. Pennington found the deal and came to Bennett, and so the two of them bought it. And Bennett told me one time that the only month he was ever in the red was the first month.
SA: And this is the one in Las Vegas?
CD: Yes, the old Circus Circus. They saw the value of the way that thing was being operated. And so Bennett said that the only time they were in the red, after they bought it, was the first month. And I said, "Well how did you do that?" And he said, "Well, I cut the cost and increased the revenues." [laughter]And so he’s a hands-on manager.
SA: He's still there running it?
CD: Oh yes, yes. He's sixty-eight or whatever. And he lives that business everyday. And he's a hands-on manager. Right now the stock is not all that great, but it is a good company. The most interesting thing about what happens to them is they got a free cash flow—that's after all bills are paid—of about 160 or 170 million dollars a year. And they recently got a line of credit from a consortium of banks headed by Bank of America for 750 million dollars, which is the largest commitment that banks have ever made to a gaming operation in the country.
SA: Didn't they just recently, the last couple of years, open several other big hotels?
CD: Well, they built the Excalibur and then they built the Luxor, which have both been built in very recent years and which are excellent hotels and enjoy good returns. But anyway, it's a well-run company; and as I say, the stock has been down recently. It doesn't pay any dividends. It just depends on its growth factor to increase the value of the stock, and over the years it's been very good to investors. But in any event, to get back to my own personal experience in the company, people have asked me if I was intimidated about being a director and I said, "No, I'm not intimidated, but I'm not used to the large figures." [laughter] And so I'm on the company's audit committee, which is a three-man committee. I'm not the chairman. The chairman is a past president of the First Interstate Bank and has been a director of Circus since it went public. It's been about eleven or twelve years ago now. He's the chairman and I'm on the committee. The audit committee is the most important committee in a publicly traded corporation.
SA: Now a lot of questions: how often do you meet? Do you get to go to the hotel?
CD: Well we meet four times a year for regular meetings and then we have special meetings, either to get together or else we have quite a few during the year, some telephonic board meetings where we can take minor actions.
SA: Do you help with any of the decisions? Do you vote on any decisions? What is an outside director?
CD: Well not as far as the day-to-day management of the company.
SA: When they were going to build a new hotel?
CD: Well, we do. You bet. Yes, those are major financial commitments, sure.
SA: Were you involved in either of these two that you just mentioned?
CD: Well, only in the decisions to go ahead and build them.
SA: In the decision, OK. That's a major decision.
CD: They are major decisions, and they need to be approved by a board.
SA: So in order to approve it you've got to know what their finances are?
CD: Oh well, you got to know the whole story. Directors have a potential liability if they don't perform properly. And I've looked into that and I think the important part of a director's action . . . . Take an outside director: an outside director is a guy who represents the shareholders. The inside directors are management people. There's a chief executive officer and there's a chief financial officer and so on . . . the chief operating officer. They're inside directors. The outside directors are there to protect the stockholders, and that is an enormous responsibility, really.
SA: How many stockholders do they have?
CD: Oh, I don't know. They have thousands.
SA: And you send reports to the stockholders?
CD: Well, the report to the stockholders comes out annually, but I'm saying that the determinative actions that are taken by . . . and the votes that outside directors make are, presumably, taken in the interest of stockholders, not the management.
SA: That's a good description of that.
CD: And the important thing, as far as the legal potential liability is that an outside director has a responsibility to be fully informed, absolutely fully informed, before he makes a decision. Now, that doesn't mean to say that if a decision is wrong that he's vulnerable, particularly if it's a fully informed judgment at the time. That's the important thing. And so we are, and I personally try to be, completely informed, and so does everybody else, on the actions that are taken.
SA: How many outside directors are there?
CD: At the present time there are five, and three inside directors . . . and there will be a fourth inside director. We just appointed a new chief financial officer who will be appointed to the board at the time of our annual meeting, which is later this month in Las Vegas.
SA: So that's not too many. I mean, you have a big responsibility . . .
CD: Well it's a nine person board. But a majority now of five . . . originally Circus was criticized about that, because they originally only had a couple of outside directors, but they kept adding outside directors, and they now have five outside directors.
SA: Do you get to get acquainted with their hotels?
CD: Well, not significantly. Like in Las Vegas we always stay there.
SA: And see how it's run?
CD: Yes. And, but that isn't an essential ingredient of a director's job, necessarily.
SA: Is this an open ended appointment?
CD: No. It's by terms.
SA: And how long is that?
CD: They are three-year terms.
SA: So, this year is your second term?
CD: Yes, I'm in my second term now, yes, right.
SA: Are you going to stay on again next term?
CD: I don't know. I've been thinking about that and I'm not sure that I will. I've got to check it out. I think I've got two more years to serve, after this annual meeting in June. But, I'll be eighty-one then, and I'm not sure that I think that people that reach that age should continue on as . . .
SA: I don't think age matters [laughter], if your mind is good.
CD: Well, I understand that, and to an extent that's true, but I'm a little sensitive about [my age] . . and I've been on a committee that's some of these new directors. And I've had two things that I've tried to emphasize. One we haven't been able to accomplish yet, but we will somewhere along the line. But, the other thing that I felt we ought to have a high priority on is getting some younger directors on that board that can be there for a number of years.
SA: Be there, continuity.
CD: Now the other thing that we do not have is a woman or a minority person on the board.
SA: Oh, OK. Those are good ideas.
CD: And so, ideally, the next appointment that we would make on that board would be a Hispanic woman.
SA: I was just going to say [laughter] that will be something there.
CD: You know, ideally. If you can find her. Bennett, I talked to him about it when we had a meeting about who we wanted to try to pick. He knows one that I don't know there in Las Vegas, but she's involved in some other things, so he didn't seem to think she would be available. But he did know a Hispanic woman. All of those things need to be considered when you select a director. And I'm on that committee, that recruitment committee. But anyway, I haven't made a decision yet, but I'm inclined to tender a resignation at least. You know, if they want me to stay on, I guess I'll do that, but I'm a little sensitive about the age deal. I think that some younger people ought to be on there.
SA: Some younger, but they always need someone a little older and wiser.
CD: Well look, the people that they've got on there, even at some younger ages, have had a lot of experience. One of the guys we recently put on was the guy that handled Donrey Enterprises. His name is Fred Smith, and this guy had been a terrific executive. And he sits on a couple of the corporate boards. Art Smith, who is on the Circus board, is also a Director of John Deere and Nevada Power Company. He is also a trustee of the Howard Keck Foundation, a large charitable foundation. It's an enormous foundation that is headquartered in Southern California. Enormous wealth in that foundation. So, he's had a lot of experience on big boards. So, we got guys that are, you know, really experienced at that sort of thing.
SA: Can you tell us—because I know just from my observation that it is such a big employment corporation—a little bit about the number of employees, how it helps the economy, some of those contributions, because I think they're such a large corporation.
CD: Well, I don't know what the number is now—something over twenty-thousand since they opened the Luxor. That's more employees than the state of Nevada has. And as companies go, I think they are very good to their employees. They never seem to have any problems with negotiations when they sit down with employees.
SA: Are they unionized?
CD: They are unionized. They are the only unionized company in Northern Nevada, in the Reno area. But Bennett's got an interesting theory about that. He feels that he wants everybody to be unionized so that everybody's got a level playing field. And he objects to—there's one company down there now, the Frontier Hotel, that's had strikes . . .
SA: Yes, I observed that.
CD: And now MGM, they've got a big suit going now. See, they would not recognize the culinary union, which is the largest union. That's all the cooks and waiters and bartenders, and it's large, a very large union. MGM wouldn't sign a contract with them; now they've been picketing the MGM, and blocking the sidewalks. They claim that the sidewalk is public property. MGM claims that it's theirs. And now MGM is going to file a suit to enjoin the picketing on the sidewalk. Well, Bennett always thought that the Frontier should be unionized like the rest of them and I suppose that he feels that same way about MGM. So, it's a level playing field. And he has had no problems with employees; none. They like him very much. They know that he tries to treat them fairly.
SA: I'm sure they would stay longer so you wouldn't have to keep retraining.
CD: You know, they have an excellent relationship with their employees.
SA: Where does he recruit all of these people?
CD: Well, I don't know. What he does, when he builds a new hotel is to take certain key people out of existing operations to put into the new hotel to train a lot of other people. It's a kind of ongoing process of expansion, and I don't know all the intricacies. During the initial stage a lot of things go on and you're not completely organized, you know, but they've gotten along pretty well. So far, they've been able to man their top management positions from inside the organization, moving people up. And among the lower echelon, word gets out and brings them in.
SA: Well, I'm impressed by it. Have there been, at no fault of the management, but have there been other forces coming in that have created any problems as far as the gambling is concerned?
CD: No, other than the competition, the national competition in all gaming. We haven't expanded to the extent that a lot of companies have into other areas. We did lose an important one that we thought that we were going to get down in Auckland, New Zealand recently. Got down to two companies and the other company simply offered so much more money to buy the single location down there that we just got blown out of the water.
SA: You mean you wanted to open something in Auckland? Open a gambling casino? I'm confused.
CD: Yes. It's the only state in Australia that doesn't have a single casino. And there was an enormous potential down there. It's about five million people and the Olympics are going to be down there in the next few years. It's a gorgeous site on the harbor there, and we were really hoping we could land that one. But anyway, we lost that one.
SA: Who got it?
CD: Showboat, along with a partner in a construction company in Auckland. We have partners in Auckland too, but anyway, those things come and go.
SA: Now does Circus Circus enterprises have places outside of Nevada?
CD: Yes, they were just recently involved with Caesar's and Hilton in a casino that has just opened in Windsor, Canada, thirty miles north of Detroit.
SA: Do they have anything in Atlantic City?
CD: No, they don't. They never elected to go there. And they never elected to go down into—considering the circumstances—into New Orleans. They didn't compete on that one.
SA: What do you mean, "the circumstances?"
CD: Well they didn't like the whole deal; the cost of it, the tax that was going be imposed, some other factors, but they've got an interesting one just twenty miles north of New Orleans on the Mississippi called Chalmette. And that looks like it might be a real good location. The one in New Orleans is supposed to be built down in the French Quarter, and from what we understand, that's a bad area. There's a lot of crime down there, a lot of deaths and . . . . The Chalmette is an area that is eighty percent white, and, environmentally, it's a much nicer area than the French Quarter. And we think that a lot of that business that everybody was so hot on in New Orleans is going to come up to Chalmette rather than to go down to the French Quarter in New Orleans. And we just got the license finally approved on that. It’s in a different parish in Louisiana than New Orleans [end of tape 7 side a]
SA: Knowing that prostitution is legal in Nevada, I wonder if you can tell us, first of all, about the law.
CD: Well . . . let me say this, there's always been prostitution in Nevada, since the mining days, just like it was with gaming. We'd have times of legal gaming and illegal gaming over the years, but there's always been gaming in Nevada. There was when I was a kid in this community in Reno. It's always been here, either legally or illegally. And that's the case with prostitution. If it's properly supervised and run correctly, it isn't all that evil a thing. Prostitution is legal here in this county, and most of the brothels are out . . . you pass them going out of the valley on the way to Austin. And I think a lot of the location had to do with the Navy installation out there.
SA: Was it there before the Navy came?
CD: No. Now, years ago . . . . I want to tell you a funny story about that. There was one over here on North Taylor Street when I was a kid. Never, never had any problem with it. There was a woman that ran it.
SA: Was it a house?
CD: Yes. It was a house. And it had a big board fence around it, so it was sealed off. And this is a humorous story. My sister, who was a very virtuous person, during the war was collecting money for . . . I don't know, some war deal activity. So she went up there. [laughter]
SA: Oh, she didn't know?
CD: Well, I don't know. I think she did. But anyway, she went up there and she rapped on the door, and this madam came to the door, and she was soliciting funds. And she said, "Well, I'll give you a little money, but I can't give you too much because you know in my business all the boys are away, and my business is pretty slow." My sister always laughed at that.
SA: That's right, during the war. [tape briefly cuts out]
CD: Well, as I mentioned, prostitution in Nevada is a local option thing within counties, and interestingly enough, one of the counties that never legalized prostitution was Clark County.
SA: Is that right?
CD: And I don't know what the current situation is in the hotels, but they used to be filled with prostitutes.
SA: The hotels. In other words, they would use rooms.
CD: Well yes, and they would be around the bars. And you could always tell normally. They would be sitting around waiting for somebody to pick them up. But in any event, and I don't know what the current situation is, I can't tell you, but as far as I know, street prostitution is rampant in Las Vegas, rampant.
SA: Oh, it is?
CD: Street prostitution.
SA: Is that legal?
CD: No, it's not legal. I don't know whether they really have much enforcement on it or not. But, you know, the whole question about that is people think it has evil connotations, which in a sense it does, but it has been my observation that if you don't have legalized, regulated prostitution, all you do is have street prostitutes.
SA: Right. Now what is the law?
CD: Well, as I told you it's local option about legalizing brothels. In legalized brothels, one of the positive things is a requirement for regular medical examinations very often.
SA: Do they need to get a license for a brothel?
CD: The brothel needs to be licensed locally, yes. That's correct.
SA: And are they taxed? Do they pay taxes on property or . . .
CD: Well, they do on the property. I don't think they do on earnings or income . . .
SA: Are there rules about the prostitute staying within the brothel and not going to bars? Is it more detailed?
CD: I couldn't answer that, I mean, it's a regulated thing. For example, around here it's no big deal. In a deal like that it's not before the public eye.
SA: No, as an outsider I would never observe it if the place wasn't pointed out.
CD: And you never hear anything about it unless you got some kind . . . . Well, this Joe Conforte had this one up out of Sparks, you know. He was very notorious; he had the Mustang Ranch.
SA: Oh yes. Isn't it still there?
CD: Yes, it's still there. But he had it. That was legalized in Storey County—Virginia City is the county seat. And he got a lot of publicity, which he sought. And so that was a kind of notorious type deal because of the publicity that it developed. I don't know how many counties in Nevada have legalized prostitution, but a lot of them do, up along Interstate 80, like in Elko and so on. I think in Winnemucca and Battle Mountain. But in any event, as far as the people around these deals and have been around them for years, you know, it's no big deal to them.
SA: Right, right.
CD: And they don't view it in the context that it's necessarily an evil activity, you know.
SA: And there's never trouble at those places?
CD: No, no. They're regulated and they don't have problems with them. And, as I say, the girls have to have medical examinations and that sort of thing.
SA: Is there a person like an inspector to make sure that is done?
CD: I don’t know. And it's probably depending on the county.
SA: Probably in the health department.
CD: Well, yes. And the county, whatever regulations they have for it, and I don't know. But, as I say, if you look around America where they don't have legalized prostitution, they have worlds and worlds of street prostitutes everywhere.
SA: I know that you were involved with the Valley Plaza Shopping Center. Can you give us details about how that was started and tell us about that?
CD: The property out there along where the shopping center was built was owned by a man who had a livestock auction here. And he bought that property, and that was agricultural property. It was in alfalfa fields, and I think he eventually had in mind to try to develop it out along the highway itself.
SA: Give us the location.
CD: Well, it's on Williams Avenue which blends into the Reno highway going west. And at the time, as I say, it was all fields. It was undeveloped. There was no water, sewer, or electricity on the property. Now, he went bankrupt, and his property came up for sale, and they parceled it into one-acre parcels along the highway there. By the time of the second sale, we had liquidated the construction company, which I think I indicated was liquidated in 1965. But in any event, I was a stockholder through my mother and deceased father, along with my sister, in the construction company. So, when the company was liquidated, I received eighty thousand dollars out of that liquidation. I took forty thousand of it and bought some property next to where my mother lived on Williams Avenue over here, where American Savings and Loan is now. She had a bedroom on the ground floor that faced us. This acreage was over to the east of her, and I wanted to protect her. I didn't want to have any kind of a disturbance, particularly at night, where she slept on that lower floor. I was afraid. At that time I could see commercial development coming along that street, so I spent forty thousand of that money to buy this property to protect her. And I had the other forty thousand. I had the Island Ranch at that time, but I never drew anything out of that property other than what I had to live on. And I really didn't have any cash to put into anything, so I decided that I'd try to buy some of those lots from a trustee in bankruptcy. The corner lot, where First Interstate's Branch is now, had been sold. But there were eight lots, one-acre parcels, from there going east.
SA: Those were empty lots?
CD: Yes. Just fields . . . fields. I had no idea about when am I ever to get any development going on it, because there was nothing out there. There were no utilities or anything. I figured it would be at least ten years. So, I bid these eight lots.
SA: Now what year were you doing this?
CD: Oh, I don't know. Let's see, when did I build the shopping center?
CD: All right. Well this was probably around the early seventies. So, I bid the eight lots, all or nothing. All or nothing for the forty thousand. So when they opened the bids, the trustee in bankruptcy figured that was too cheap and he recommended to the court that it turn down the bid. So he came back to me—he was a local guy who was a trustee; I knew him well. He was a real estate man. He said, "That's too cheap." I said, "Well, AI, it's all the money I've got." So I said, "Sell it to somebody else." Then he came to me and he had three other isolated lots—they were not contiguous—that had not sold. He said, "Well, I'll sell you those lots if you take these other three lots for five-thousand each." See, that was forty thousand for eight lots. Five thousand a lot.
I said, "Al, I've still only got the forty thousand. [laughter] I don't have it."
So what he did, he wound up finally selling the other three lots to three different buyers, and he recommended that the court accept this forty thousand dollar bid I had made on these eight lots. What happened first, I sold three of the lots for the forty thousand that I had invested in eight lots for a service station that is over there now, the Chevron station. So I took that forty thousand and bought out a couple of Armenian brothers who owned the corner lot over there on Allen Road where the First National Branch Bank is in order to block the ground out to the highway. So, then the predecessors of Raley's came along and they wanted to buy three lots next to the service station.
SA: Now who was that?
CD: The predecessor to Raley's was Eagle Thrifty. It was a local chain. I sold them those three lots for $180,000.
SA: What year was that?
CD: Oh . . . I think that was in the middle . . . . Oh, I know what happened, though. First of all, what we did, what we had to do out there before any of this developed, we formed an assessment district out there. The people that owned in there realized that in order to develop it commercially, you have to put the utilities in. So we formed an assessment district.
SA: You formed it?
CD: No, we. I said we as a group formed it.
SA: Yes, but who was the leader to get them together?
CD: Well, we had an attorney who did the work for us. And so we formed the assessment district and put an assessment on ourselves to be paid off over a period of years for the utilities. So we got water and sewer and . . .
SA: Was it mainly all still open?
CD: Yeah. There was no way to develop it because you didn’t have-
SA: It was in the mid-1970s, early to mid?
CD: Yes, yes. So once we put the assessment district in, then these other things became feasible. And that's when I first sold the property for the service station, and then I bought the corner lot. Then Eagle Thrifty came along and I sold that property, as I say, three acres for $180,000. And that left me three acres on a . . because I had bought the one acre over on the corner. I bought the acre on the corner under that bankruptcy, which was down on a corner of the highway and Allen Road, where First Interstate's Branch is. So, then I figured that if the supermarket went in there, that I would build out the balance of the property. They wound up selling their property to Raley's. Then when Raley's came in, the developer that had the contract was going to build a building and long-term lease it to Raley's, which is the way they operated. Their original plan was that part of the shopping center that sits there now. And so they were going to put their store out in the middle of their property.
SA: Where the parking lot is now?
CD: Yes, right. And so I said, "Well look, why don't you put it over against the property line and I'll build the rest of it out." And they said, "OK." So, they went over to the property line, and then the first building that we built was there where Sprouse-Reitz was located. They went bankrupt, and that's why it happens to be vacant now. But I originally got a long-term lease from Sprouse-Reitz. And they started their construction, and then I started to design the rest of them. And then I was in the legislative session and I got an architect in Carson that had built a store down in Hawthorne for Sprouse-Reitz that was the size that we were going to use. We used the same 15,000 square feet plan, so we didn't have to do that part of the design.
SA: I see. Had you already gotten word from Sprouse-Reitz that they wanted to come into your building?
CD: Yes, already had. Yes. They did.
SA: So let's back up a little bit. Before you got the architect, how did you decide what was going to go in? How did you find the people?
CD: I didn't know what was going in there. But the point was, I had thirty thousand. I didn't develop, at that time, the corner lot. I had a lot of guys who wanted to put a service station out there, but I didn't want a service station. So, on the back part of it, I had thirty-thousand square feet. And Sprouse-Reitz was going to take half of it.
SA: Did you contact them or did they contact you?
CD: I contacted them.
SA: OK. That's what I wanted to find out.
CD: Well, they had a store downtown which was way too small, so they wanted to expand. And they were doing a good business in Fallon at the time. So the point was, I had half of the square footage leased, and on that basis I was able to borrow the money from First Interstate Bank—$630,000 or something like that to build the thirty thousand square feet on the back side.
SA: Was that already planned for what would go in there, or were you going to then lease it?
CD: No, no, no, no. I put in what I call small shops. And then I put in at the other end a couple of larger ones. There was an interesting story about the loan that I got. I went to the chairman of First Interstate at that time, who's the same Art Smith that now is a director [of Circus Circus]; I've known him for years. And he gave me an interest rate which was very, very favorable. And he said, "When you get ready to do this deal, why just deal with the manager of the Fallon branch." So anyway, we took the finished plans down to the manager and only had the one place leased at that point. What they do is they make an appraisal of the land and improvement, which he did, and which came out at about what I expected it would. So when I sat down with him, he said, "Normally on these commercial developments, we loan seventy percent, but we can loan up to eighty."I said, "No way. I can see myself sitting in a committee in the senate considering a piece of banking legislation, and somebody saying, 'Here's a guy that got an eighty percent loan from First Interstate.' I don't want any part of that deal." And believe me, nobody ever laid a finger on me, ever laid a finger on me for anything that was unethical in my lifetime.
SA: I bet there aren't many who can say that.
CD: I was very sensitive about that. And so anyway, what happened is I had to put up a lot of additional money, but I had some as a result of this sale to Raley's predecessors of $180,000. I put up some additional money and got the shopping center built. I designed the thing. I wrote and negotiated every lease personally and built out the back part of the center.
SA: Oh, oh. Now tell me who were some of the businesses that leased?
CD: Well, let's see. I can't remember all of them. [Looking at a newspaper reporting the opening of the shopping center, December 6, 1978.] Originally, there was a barber shop, The Electric Chairs, and a shoe store and, let me see, I had a little luncheon deal and an ice cream soda fountain type deal in one . . . I had a dress shop that moved from a location downtown. I had a saddlery, a guy that would manufacture original saddles, a local guy. He was there for a while and then moved. Well, I can't remember all of them, but I had eight small shop locations. Well, my daughter opened a little bed and bath place in there; then when they moved to Carson City, I released it.
SA: Now, did people come to you because you had signs and they saw this developing, or did you advertise, or did you talk to people?
CD: No, I sought them out. And one of the deals we needed was the pizza barn, which is still over there. It was the only pizza place here in Fallon. It was a badly run place that had underage kids in there drinking, and he was closing down about that time. And it was the only pizza place in town. Originally, I was dealing with a guy who had a Round Table chain, and he was debating about whether to go into Winnemucca or here at the time, and he chose to go into Winnemucca; which, although I think he had a fair place out there, I still think it was a bad decision. But anyway, I had the Straw Hat guy from Reno that came down here, and he went over the deal with me. He was a good business man and I don't know whether he still owns . . . he owned about three or four places. He owns some up at Lake Tahoe, and he said, "Well look, this is a good location, but the only way I'd move down here is if I can get a reliable manager to come in. I've had too many problems with hiring managers in other locations." I said, "I got two guys in mind; one in Sparks and one in Reno. He said, "If one of them will come down, I'll sign a lease with you; otherwise I won't." So, then he got in touch with me. He said, "Neither one of these guys is interested in coming down there, but I know a family that are friends of mine that I think might be interested." And that guy is Roger Diedrichsen, who owns this place that came in at that time; and I got the pizza barn in there, which has been a very successful location.
SA: Now how long did it take to fill these places?
CD: Well I had them all leased by the time they were built.
SA: Wow! That shows what a dynamic businessman you are.
CD: And as I say, I was looking for, you know, a good diversity. And, as I say, I drafted all the lease documents, negotiated them all.
SA: And a very successful outcome with Raley's?
CD: Yes, right. And so, then I wound up selling the center in the last year of the low capital gains, eighteen percent. I think that was in 1986.
SA: Was it successful?
CD: Yes, it was successful. Betty and I ran it.
SA: You did?
CD: And we kept all of the accounts. And I had personal contact with all of them.
SA: So, that kept you busy.
CD: And, then we sold it.
SA: Why did you sell it again?
CD: It was the last year of the eighteen percent capital gains. It went to twenty-eight percent the next year. So, I was influenced by not having to pay out the capital gains tax on the difference between my investment costs and what I sold it for.
SA: Who did you sell it to and was it hard to sell?
CD: Well, it wasn't too hard to sell actually. I sold it to a group from Los Angeles that still owns it. They made some mistakes, and they lost practically all the original tenants that I had in there, because they scared them to death. They had a new lease proposal that was from hell to breakfast on . . . provisions and requirements. And in addition to that, they raised the rentals on them.
SA: Oh. They were being a little too greedy.
CD: Yes. And I told them before I ever sold it, I said, "You better take it a little easy. This is a small community, and these small merchants can only stand about so much rental at this point in time." And they never listened to me. So, they had some problems over there, but they're going to survive it all right. They were some wealthy people. The head guy that owns a lot of other shopping center investments, among other things, around the country.
SA: Did you do well on your work and investment and all that you did to get that started? Did you come out OK on the shopping center?
CD: Oh yes. Oh sure. It paid off. I kept paying down the loan, and when we sold it I paid off, obviously, the balance that was due and wound up with a lot of money then. I distributed . . . I cut my daughter in. I developed a plan to help her where she didn't have any investment in it. And, what finally happened when the smoke cleared away . . . she got a check for four hundred thousand bucks.
SA: Oh, that was good.
CD: Yes. Because I had helped my son in some respects in the farming business.
SA: That's right.
CD: And I wanted to do something for her.
SA: Good daddy, too.
CD: Yes. So then, we had four hundred thousand. It's the first money I ever had to invest. I won't go into all of the ramifications, but I started an investment program which has been successful. And so actually the years totally treated me very well.
SA: Well, it’s because you had certain talents and brains and knew how to use them! [end of tape 7]
CA: An interesting thing about that shopping center from the community standpoint, it triggered any number of developments that started filling in that strip area there. Just amazing, because the utilities were there, the Raley's store was there, and these other shops. And it seemed like, in three or four years, that whole thing had filled up.
SA: The way this city is growing out now . . .
CD: Yes, right.
SA: You helped start all that.
CD: And you know what, I never considered myself any knowledgeable real estate investor, but years ago I was always amazed at the amount of traffic that went . . . . It was amazing where it all came from. And I thought to myself, "Boy that kind of traffic sometime is probably going to be worth some dough." [laughter]
SA: [Fallon] is one of the rare towns that doesn't have a freeway outside of the city. You have to come right through [Fallon], and so there's very, very heavy trucking coming through the town. Can you tell me a little bit about the town's feelings? Was there ever any movement to try and divert traffic from the town?
CD: Yes, there was a few years ago. And the only effort that I remember was under the previous mayor's administration, when they talked about an alternate route going south towards Las Vegas, rather than having to turn down here at the Safeway corner coming through town. That alternate route is still used to some extent, but they were going to make it a major truck bypass, and that really never came to pass. And the traffic that comes from the north from Interstate 80 beside Lovelock coming down [long period of static, which has been cut] –bypassed to some extent. Particularly coming this way and then going south towards Las Vegas can be bypassed on some of those roads further out and then come in on Sheckler road to the highway south of town here.
SA: I now want to talk a little bit about Fallon's growth and the economy. We’re not going to get into the military part yet, we’ll cover that later, but this is a very attractive area for retirees, with the lower taxes, the beauty of the area, the much lower cost of housing and people . . . I can only talk about Californians escaping the many problems of California, including the very high cost of living and people retiring here. Can you give me some thoughts about how that is affecting Fallon? I know there's mixed emotions about how it's increasing the population.
CD: Well, the population is, I think, increasing percentage-wise very substantially. When I first went in the senate, I think that there were, maybe, seven thousand people in the county. Today there's about twenty thousand, and it's growing a lot faster, recently, than it has in the past. A lot of these retirees—and that's what they are: they're either people from other areas or people that originally lived here and want to come back—they want to have a little place in the country where they can have a few animals, a garden, and a pasture. So, the trend in recent years is for larger agricultural acreage to go to smaller agricultural acreage in order to accommodate that. Breaking the properties up that way, and with water rights on them, they get good money and a lot more than the agricultural value of the land to do that. So, that's been a trend which will probably continue.
CD: I call these people rural dwellers. They're not really agriculturalists. They own a little water-right land for their use. But that trend is going to accelerate in my opinion, and as long as they don't break those parcels up into too small acreage, you know, I don't see anything too much wrong with that. You still have a pleasant green belt environment, and I think that's the important thing for this community to try to preserve. I'm not speaking now as an agriculturalist, but I'm speaking as a person in the community. One of the reasons that people come here is the attractiveness of that type of an environment. And so, I think the big challenge that we have in the future from the standpoint of land use planning is how to preserve that impression with people that live here and drive through here. And I always remember, my father who came west from Algona, Iowa, when he was a kid twenty years old or whatever, he came to the mining boom in Goldfield in 1907. He got off a train in Hazen and he took a horse-drawn stage that came through Fallon, then went on down to Goldfield. He told me that he always remembered when they came here, after this sandy road they crossed coming in from Hazen, and he lived in the green country in Iowa. He came in here, along the rivers and so on, saw these fields, and at that time they were developing into alfalfa and so on. He said it was just like a desert oasis. He said, "I never forgot it." And then he went from Goldfield up to a property that he later homesteaded up in Lassen County, California. But I think that his early memories and impressions was the reason that they moved here when I started school. This is where he decided to come.
SA: Yes. There is a rare beauty here.
CD: Yes. Yes, particularly in Nevada because it's a very arid state. So, I think it's a challenge for us. I think it was properly handled, you know; hopefully for a long time in the future, we will retain that impression of the community.
SA: I've heard some local people say, which is probably true, that with the Californians coming in, where they have sold a house and can buy a house, that it is raising the prices of housing here.
CD: Well, I don't know if it's raising the prices in housing as much as it is the land. I think, as I read the real estate ads, that the total prices of houses are still pretty reasonable in this area. And one of the reasons they are as reasonable as they are is that when you get up into a $250,000 or $300,000 house you don't have very many takers in a community like this. You don't have that many takers. So, they're trying to build places that are decent for people to live in and hold their land costs down to where they could sell them accordingly. And, as I say, when you get above . . . well like this house here. I don't know what we'd price it at, but we'd price it where we begin to thin out the takers.
SA: So it's what the market will bear.
CD: Well yes, you know, the guy that's in here in a business, or that sort of thing, small business normally doesn't develop that kind of wealth to pay $250,000 or $300,000.
SA: Of course the other thing is, when these people come in it does help all these businesses like your shopping center.
CD: Oh, there's no question about that. It does help that. Yes. And I'd like to make one other observation if I haven't done it somewhere in our interview. I did tell you about this earlier, I think. People have asked me about the community presently as against when I was young, and I told them about the change, whether it's been desirable, beneficial, or whether it hasn't. I told them that it's an infinitely better community because of its health care. When I was a kid, we did not have health care. We had a couple of broken down doctors here and one was an alcoholic. And they didn't have any hospitals. They'd take some two-story house that had four or five bedrooms in it and open up a hospital. It was a dismal situation. I had an illness when I was . . . not in my teens, earlier in my life. Well, I guess I'm lucky to be alive. I had a fever of 110 degrees.
SA: Oh my goodness.
CD: And the only reason that I think I'm alive is that my mother, day and night, kept cold compresses on my forehead.
SA: There was no good doctor or hospital?
CD: No, and they got a doctor, a child's doctor out of Reno, and it took him four hours to come down here in an automobile once or twice while I had that illness. But, I know that the only reason that I'm alive is because of my mother. She put those cold compresses on my forehead. Day and night.
SA: And what is the health care now?
CD: It's excellent. And they're ready to build a new hospital out here on the grounds that the county owns. They're going to start this fall. This is being built by the health maintenance organization that operates the hospital. Going to employ five-hundred people.
CD: Going to be a wonderful hospital. And it will be designed for expansion. So the health care is getting infinitely better here.
SA: I know they have to come down here a lot from Lander County.
SA: Because in Battle Mountain, they don't do surgery, and there's no hospital or doctor in Austin.
CD: So, I think it's primarily a lot better community because of the health care.
SA: Yes, and the good schools that you helped to develop.
SA: Now let's go to the military base again, because coming from just a stone's throw from Miramar, I know that the Top Gun is being moved here. I know that's definite. I also know that they're already increasing to put new buildings here and getting ready for them.
CD: yeah, 50 some odd million.
SA: And it's probably mixed emotions about their coming. What do you, from your own perspective, see about that move increasing the size and the scope of the military base here?
CD: I don't think there are mixed emotions about it; it's a good facility for this community. Small communities strive for clean industries. They got the best one in the world here. It's a clean industry. It's got a great future. It's the only air corridor, in my opinion, in the free world where they can do all this high speed maneuvering they have to do out east of here. They go 120 miles on a corridor that you couldn't get anywhere in the free world anymore. So I think it will become by far the most important air station that the Navy will have in the foreseeable future. And people have asked me about its future and I said, "As long as they keep carriers at sea, this will have, probably, the highest priority of any naval air station in America, which it will. Now, the other thing is that I think they'll keep the carriers. They've been reducing a lot of things, but the ability of the carriers to put out border fires is so important in the world and so flexible . . . .
SA: Without putting ground forces . .
CD: That's right. So flexible that I think it will be the last thing to go.
SA: Some of the things I heard from people who have been here for years, and who are ranchers, are just kind of negative feelings, I think, about military presence and about the use of more land and water because some of the range land was taken away. Do you think that's just a psychological feeling?
CD: Yes, I think so. I don't think that's a major influence in the community at all. Now the land . . you probably heard this from some Lander County people too. See, they extended that air corridor. They had that air corridor, part of it, during World War II when they were training pilots in here. But, at a later point in time, particularly after development of the jets, they had to have additional space, which they finally got. But it runs way out there by Austin and beyond.
SA: Well, the Sweetwater area, I know that Ira Kent was saying that they took away—at the foot of the mountain—that whole range there, so they had to sell their sheep.
SA: And then some people told me in interviews, that they had to sell their homestead as the base was expanding.
CD: Well, they did expand out in Dixie Valley and they had a big hassle.
SA: So the people were affected?
CD: OK, there were individual impact situations, but I don't think that represents a community as a whole. Look . . . it's a clean industry.
SA: Yes. Does it bring money into the economy?
CD: Oh, an enormous amount of money. I would say that probably now forty to fifty percent of this state's economy is because of the base out there.
SA: And now with construction going on, doesn't that mean people are being hired to do the construction and more people are staying here to do the work?
CD: And this is an entirely new phase of construction now that's going to be coming on. See, they've developed a lot of new facilities in here besides the original training station. They've got what they call a strike university, which is a relatively new concept in the Navy. And what they found out after that Libyan strike was a lot of the squadron commanders weren't as capable as they thought they were. I remember when a secretary of the Navy was out here speaking about it one time. He said, "You know, we got all the top brass in the naval air together to decide where we wanted to put the strike university." This is a five-week program for squadron leaders. And I think it was three weeks of ground instruction and then two weeks in the air. And he said, "Over ninety percent of them said Fallon." That was the consensus in the Navy. And so the strike university; important facilities separately commanded—not under the base commander; separately commanded. And then the amount of money they spent out here on that electronic warfare deal out here in Frenchman's Flat going towards Austin. God, they got way over $100,000,000 in very sophisticated tracking type facilities where they track dog fights.
SA: There would be no other place that you could do that.
CD: The equipment itself is an enormous investment. And so anyway, I can't see the end of the importance of that station. You know, once in a while, when they first came in here, we used to get bothered a little by the sound of the planes. Because of what happened over years, the Navy got smart too, and they don't do their important maneuvering over the valley here. They take off from there and then they go on out east. And then they've got other training sites; one down here . . . there's a target site down here going toward Schurz, out off to the east of the highway down there where they shoot at the ground targets and one thing or another. And they've got one out here in the sink area north of town. And so they used those kinds of areas for surface type training. And then, of course, they've got the big air corridor for the type of training that they have out east, and also the tracking equipment there at Frenchman's Station, where they can get into the actual dogfights.
SA: I think they also have outside contractors handling some of that, and that brings them into town.
CD: That’s right, and those are high-paid people. And they operate all of that tracking stuff out there. That’s all under contract.
SA: And they usually buy houses, don’t they? At least for a while.
CD: Yeah, a lot of them do.
SA: Well, it must help the economy because I know in California a lot of our senators fighting to keep it there, because we lose a lot of money when it leaves so we know it has to help the economy.
CD: It does. And as I say, I think it has an important future.
SA: Do you think… there has to be a spill of money spent in the community. Even though a lot of things are purchased on the base.
CD: Yeah, the commissary Railey’s and crowds like that bitch about that a lot.
SA: But don’t you think some of them, I know you see busses bringing [them into town] don’t you think some of the fellas come in and do gaming?
CD: Oh, sure. And not everybody buys stuff at the commissary. The wives buy clothes at the stores. So there’s a spillover on that. I told you about my part in the site location?
SA: Yes. And you have a wonderful, wonderful little article for the museum In Focus. Now, staying with the economy, do you think that there will be any more mining in this area?
CD: There never was much mining in this county. It's not the mineralized part of Nevada. To some extent on the northern part of the county toward Lovelock, there was some. But out east here, as far as this county line is concerned, there was very little . . . some non-metallic type mining. But it's mostly centralized through the central and northeast part of the state.
SA: Let's get into the water situation. That comes into the water situation… It’ll probably hurt the agriculture here. Do you have any involvement with the water situation, and what can you add to that?
CD: I have a very intimate involvement. This thing started to heat up with the battle about Pyramid Lake, early on when I was in the legislature, and a senator. I was involved in agriculture myself, so I got heavily involved early on. I made lots of public statements at meetings and committees that were appointed and that sort of thing. Every opportunity that I had, I made public statements about things that would try to preserve water.
CD: Last year, early in the spring, after we had come back here, some of the local people had returned from a water conference over in Colorado. And one of the things they found out was that the Southern Nevada Water Authority—which all the water in Clark County comes out of, principally off the Colorado River—was created on what's called the Interlocal Government Cooperative Act. I talked to the manager of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District about this meeting and he told me about it. And this thing rang a bell with me: I was the author, along with another senator, of that act. The reason for it was that early on, what water recreation they had at Lahontan was being handled by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, and they didn't want any part of it. They weren't in the recreational business at all, and they were concerned about the liability aspect. They finally got hit with a five hundred thousand dollar judgment with some kid who got a leg cut off or something in a boating accident out there. So, they were trying to get rid of responsibility for the recreational use. The State Park Department wanted it, but there was no mechanism at that time for bringing it about. Walt Whitaker was then the senator—that's when we had one from each county—from Lyon County over in the Yerington area, and the back part of Lahontan was in Lyon County. So he and I authored this legislation that would permit these intergovernal cooperative agreements. And as a result of that legislation, there was a four-way agreement that was entered into about recreational use of Lahontan between Churchill County, Lyon County, the state of Nevada, and the United States as a federal reservoir. That's when the park department took over the recreational aspects at Lahontan.
SA: Oh. Do you know the time period?
CD: It was back in the 1970s, as I recall. And so anyway, when he told me about this mechanism, I thought, "You know, we could create a deal like that here to address this water problem as a community." So we got a copy of the Las Vegas document, and we got one that had just recently been put in place up on the Humboldt River, that was from Elko on down to along the river system through Battle Mountain and Winnemucca and down into Pershing County. Between the two documents, in about three days I threw together an original proposal. We had a big meeting out here one day at the community center where we talked about doing this. The result was, we got a volunteer committee of about twelve or fourteen people that agreed to start working on a document to create the alliance. It was a very democratic process. We had about seven drafting sessions, and I amended that thing so many times I thought it was going to get worn out. [laughter] But the end result was that we created the document and then got it approved in concept by the city and the county. I went to hearings before them and wound up with what later became the official document with all the parties signatory. The Lahontan Valley Environmental Alliance is the broad based community umbrella organization to protect our water in this valley for whatever the uses—wetlands, agricultural, water recharged for domestic systems, four thousand rural wells, and so on. I have been heavily involved in that deal.
SA: Well, did that pass?
CD: Well yes, it was approved by the county and the city.
SA: Do they abide by it?
CD: Well yes, sure. It's in effect now.
CD: The organization is in effect.
SA: Wow! So you have created . . . ?
CD: Well, I sparked it.
SA: Sparked it. See, I hadn't heard that from anyone. Isn't that wonderful. So how is that working?
CD: Well, it's working fine. It's just in the early stages of its organization, but it's the only organization, and it's here, that can speak for the whole community. Now, we've got lots of challenges with the United States in this deal, but we've got to develop a community consensus about the uses of water here that we can all agree on. If we all go in separate directions, we're never going to get anywhere. We have a tough enough time trying to protect our own interests if we're unified, but we've got to be unified. And that's the point that we're working on now, trying to develop what we call a water budget plan, looking to the future on various requirements for water to see how much water we're going to need in the future, here in this community.
SA: Some of the problems that I have heard about in other interviews is first, number one, Pyramid Lake, where they have developed a huge recreation area and want water for the fish.
CD: Well, the endangered fish.
SA: The endangered fish, and also that the more Reno has developed, the more water Reno needs. Can you talk about any of that?
CD: Well, in general I can. It's just a long discourse, but it's true. And the point is that on the two river systems, the Carson and the Truckee, there just is not enough water to meet all the requirements. Nature is just not giving it to us [tape break] Nature's not giving the water to us on the two river systems, so we have to make the tough choices about the best way we can use this water and still let all these small communities survive.
SA: And how will that be done [laughs]?
CD: We have recently developed the possibility of a negotiated permanent settlement on this deal which we're now exploring with the federal government, with Senator Harry Reid who was a sponsor of some of the legislation a few years ago that required water for certain wetlands here, and also water for Pyramid Lake and so on. Hopefully, [there will be] concerted efforts to bring about a permanent negotiated settlement.
SA: So this is an ongoing committee?
CD: Yes, current. Just current.
SA: Oh, wonderful. Oh, wonderful.
CD: A mediator has been selected. She's coming today. She's meeting with people in the Reno area and other places tomorrow and the next day, and then she is going to spend all day on the ninth, on Thursday, here in Fallon. And so this will be her first [area of significant damage. Transcript reads “meeting with local representatives with vested interests in water. She wanted to determine whether”] all the parties are willing to support her effort to bring about a negotiated settlement. If she feels [More damage, transcript reads “that the possibilities exist to reach a settlement,”] then we would begin the process of meeting with all these interested parties here through the fall to try to determine what their local requirements were and the rock bottom positions and all those things to see if an agreement can be reached. [Damage “In order to do so, we will have to give up a substantial amount of agricultural water within the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District,”] but I don't think it will decimate it. I think that we can retain a viable irrigation district and a viable wetland. It's not easy. It's an uphill battle.
SA: Isn’t it because of some early [damaged section] that are still on the books?
CD: No. Part of the problem is a growing national feeling, I think that’s reflected in the actions of the Department of the Interior, where people have a guilt complex about the way Indian tribes were treated badly in the past and they're trying to, in some way, you know, pay back to the Indian tribes what they can in light of the abuses of Indian tribes in years gone by and in light of other interests. And I think those things have happened. So there's a national feeling . . .
SA: Is that a sensitivity?
CD: Yes, right, among the public generally. And more particularly in recent years with the advent of this bill of Harry Reid's and one here that priorities be on water in the Truckee Meadows and sustaining Pyramid Lake and the Cui-ui as an endangered species, and all of those things. It's not an easy thing to try to counteract. One of the things, however . . . we feel that if we can reach an agreement with the local wetlands interests about the uses of water here, that would be to reduce some agricultural acreage and make more water available to the wetlands.
SA: Tell me what you mean by "the wetlands."
CD: Well, in this valley there are areas in the Carson Lake pasture, which is down below the Island Ranch, and wetlands in the Carson Sink area beyond Stillwater, that are part of the Pacific Flyway for migratory waterfowl in the spring coming from Alaska. They fly on as far south as Argentina, and in the fall they go back up toward Alaska. They come in here to rest and rehabilitate themselves on these long flights when they're migrating one way or the other. So, it's an important feature, and I will have to say that along with sensitivity about the Indian tribes, there's also more sensitivity in America today about the preservation of wetlands. I think that maybe, if we can reach an agreement with these local people on these wetlands areas here, we will have some outside support on that, not just this community.
SA: Well I'm glad to hear that that's going on and I'm going to keep track of it and keep in touch with you to hear more about it. Now, before we end this exceptional interview, is there any more that you want to add about the region before we close?
CD: No. I hope that whatever acquisitions the United States makes in here will be on the perimeters of the project so that they do not affect the greenbelt. This is the best kind of land use planning. They don't want to affect the areas where people drive and see this desert oasis in the nice environment. I hope for that. As I say, I think we can get along reasonably well with some reduced agricultural acreage without getting it so low that you just can't maintain a project. So, it just remains to be seen. I think a lot depends on the rigidity or the flexibility of the United States in the deal. They've been real hard nosed on this project. We've been at the low end of the political totem pole, and they don't care about the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, the actions and attitudes of the TCID board over the years. They really detest, the United States does, those things that happened in the past. They're trying to turn the screws every way they can.
SA: Have you not had good local representation to connect with the government?
CD: No, we haven't. Particularly, as I say, where Harry Reid has had such a high priority on all these other things. He's our senior senator. And Dick Bryan, who's the junior senator, I think he's sympathetic, but he doesn't want to get into a public confrontation with Harry Reid over his legislation.
SA: Because when we say the US government it’s people who connect with the information and – not using the word “lobbying in a bad way” – having someone like you lets say, isn’t that what often effects the feeling of the “US Government” as kind of a blanket…
CD: Oh yes. But in this case, we have not had the political juice on the deal. It's not where the population is, the voting population. There's been such a high emphasis on Pyramid Lake that everything else has been secondary. And so we've been fighting, as I say, a rear guard action for years and years, and we got to try to turn that situation around if we can. Well, we're practically disenfranchised right now as far as the federal government is concerned and our representation.
SA: And your representation there. I'm sorry. I hope it's going to pick up, because I feel a very strong attachment to this region.
CD: And I feel very strongly about it, not only as a land owner but just about the community. I think more about the community's interests than I do my own private interest at this point. And my son's got a good attitude about it. He's a dandy. He loves to farm, and he said, "Well, I don't know about the future, but I'll tell you one thing: I'm going to be the last guy to leave." [laughter]
SA: Oh, wonderful. [laughter] So on that note, on behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Project . . . .
CD: I want to say one more thing not apropos of anything we discussed today: The most important day in my life was August 17, 1947 when I married Betty. She's been a wonderful wife, a helpmate, a wonderful mother, grandmother, and she is so warm and gracious to everybody who touches her life.
SA: I think that's beautiful, and I think you're both a fortunate couple. So now, on behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Project, I want to thank you so much for contributing all the information you have and all the time you have to this project, which will be important forever.
CD: Well, thank you.
SA: Thank you.