Photo By DENNIS MYERS

At the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature, which ended last month, Marlene Lockard served as the lobbyist of the Nevada Women’s Lobby and a number of other clients.

We used to hear that if there were more women in government, their different life experiences would change things, that different issues would come up before committees and courts and so on. There are now 18 women in the Nevada Legislature. Has it worked out that way?

I think that what you find with the Nevada Legislature is that some of the hardest working legislators are women. If you look at Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Debbie Smith, Valerie Wiener—all chairs of important committees—you will see that they bring, I think, a work ethic to the job that has not always been seen on the other side. … I think that there is a better understanding of some issues, especially education and family issues and those issues affecting women and children. There’s no question in my mind.

Give me your assessment of this year’s Legislature.

Well, it was rewarding in many ways and very, very disappointing in others. I thought it was a banner year for the gender equity issues that got through with very little opposition. And so I was heartened to see finally in 2011 folks are beginning to accept equality. The disappointing side is the budget. The Nevada Women’s Lobby has worked for years to support some of those programs. … Some cuts were restored, but still, heavy hits to the budget and to those programs.

What is likely to resonate in next year’s campaign?

Well, I think the ugliest thing I saw—and I don’t know that it’ll be a campaign issue—but has to be the Nevada energy bill at the end of the session. [At the last minute at the Legislature, utility lobbyists convinced legislators to slip a 25-page amendment into a renewable energy bill, prompting the governor to veto the measure.] In all of my years—I observed that on the floor, and it was just outrageous at 12:30 at night and to adopt an amendment that thick. We’ve come so far in so many ways and then to have that occurrence so blatant, I thought it was shameful. I really did.

You’re a member of a relatively elite group. A handful of people in Nevada have been chiefs of staff to Nevada governors. Do you folks have an organization or a support group? Do you get together?

We have gotten together. We’ve been asked to speak on panels together—not all of us collectively. But we’ve often talked that we should get together. But we’re all good friends and it’s fun. It’s fun to get together and compare notes.

As a lobbyist you have, I think, 17 clients besides the women’s lobby. Do those interests ever conflict, and how do you handle it?

No, I was very careful. When I take on a client I make sure that their issues won’t conflict with the issues of my other clients. That’s one of the things I feel strongly about, because often I see folks who are very conflicted. … And if there is a conflict of something unforeseen, it’s my policy to alert the clients and work out how we would deal with it.

Most of the people who live in Nevada are relative newcomers. You have a license plate that’s WP 221. If you go back far enough in Nevada, you know that means White Pine County. You don’t see those kinds of county designations much anymore. How did you hang on to that license plate all this time?

My late husband lived in Ely, Nevada, for many years. He had that license plate, and I have just kept it and renewed it every year. It’s just one of those things I just love, and it’s part of the old Nevada.

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...