Nevada Leaders Must Restore Confidence Through “The Art of Good Governance”

Several times a week, I walk past the Richard Bryan statue on the UNR campus. There he sits in bronze, reading the Nevada mugwort and surrounded by benches announcing his significant public achievements: President of ASUN 1958-1959, Attorney General 1979-1983, Governor 1983-1989 and US Senator 1989-2001. The Richard H. Bryan Plaza is a wonderful tribute to one of Nevada’s most respected leaders, one who changed the course of my life immeasurably – but I have often wondered why they would choose to honor Bryan with a statue at a time when so many more statues are being removed across the country.

At least a partial answer to this question can be found in the pages of Building Confidence in Government: The Pursuit of the Common Good from Governor Richard H. Bryan, a 2021 book by Larry D. Struve. Struve’s book explores Bryan’s time as governor and how he weathered the crises and challenges of his time. It shows the lessons Bryan learned during his political career and how he would apply those lessons with grace, diligence, and decency as governor, all characteristics that directly contributed to Bryan’s deserved admiration in the Nevada political landscape. .

Building trust in government is a difficult book to classify. It’s a biography, but readers looking for an in-depth political biography like Mike Archer’s Full Life Review of Senator Bill Raggio will not be satisfied. It is normative work on executive leadership, but it is not scientific and verifiable work of political science. Although part biography and part study of academic leadership, Building trust in government seems to be more of a call to action for those who serve in today’s political system. If this is so, then the object of this action is for today’s elected leaders to practice what he calls “the art of good governance,” to which Struve attributes the respect Bryan receives so much. years after leaving office.

At the opening of the book, Struve identifies 13 values ​​that contribute to the practice of the art of good governance. They range from personal characteristics (sense of humor, work-life balance and use of grace and charm) to ethical characteristics (honesty, loyalty and respect) to characteristics of public stewardship (taking measured risks, being a good judge of character, and regard the service as a public trust). While some of these characteristics overlap and others can certainly be added to the list, it is difficult to dispute his conclusion: and the constituents would be the beneficiaries.

Struve arrived at the Stock List through careful study of Bryan’s time as governor. Part of what Struve experienced personally while working for Bryan when he was Attorney General and as a cabinet member in Governor Bryan’s administration. Beyond personal experience, however, Building trust in government is also based on in-depth interviews with others who know and have worked for Bryan, as well as an in-depth review of a wide selection of correspondence, speeches, official reports, books, and newspaper articles.

From all of these sources, Struve compiles 18 separate case study chapters of Bryan’s governorship. These chapters cover the immediate crises the Bryan administration faced, the issues and initiatives that shaped its administration and legacy, and how Bryan incorporated women and minority leaders and perspectives into his approach to leadership. the governance. Throughout each of these chapters, Struve highlights the times he identified one of the 13 values ​​in order to show how they affected the outcome of the given situation.

In the final chapter, Struve attempts to tie these lessons together to explain why the art of good governance should be of interest to us today. In our democracy, Struve stresses, the consent of the people is essential and, therefore, elected officials must embody these values ​​in order to gain the confidence and credibility necessary for consent. Once leaders have the consent of the people and the credibility to act, these leaders must act on behalf of the people. Struve describes the possibility of this approach as follows:

Bryan made it clear to me that members of government have a responsibility to act with diligence and dedication, so that opportunities to strive for important achievements benefiting the citizens of our state are not missed. He expected key figures in his administration to act boldly with concrete actions to make these possibilities a reality. Major initiatives undertaken during his tenure have improved conditions in society and provided many citizens with more opportunities to improve their lives and livelihoods.

Struve never makes the leap from his Bryan-style analysis to our current politics, but he doesn’t really have to for the implication to exist. It is clear today that our politics are not the politics of Bryan’s era – and that we are the worst of them. So, in a subtle and in-depth way, Struve provides examples of Bryan’s successful leadership for others to follow so they can regain public trust and lead, innovate and build the systems and institutions that we will need to serve. the future Nevadans.

Shortly after Building trust in government was released, I had the chance to speak with Governor Bryan at a public event in Las Vegas. Bryan never mentioned the book — it’s not his style — but he commented at length on how partisan and adversarial our politics have become today. (I was at the event at the invitation of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and had the chance to thank him for appointing me to a service academy when he was a senator in 1997, a decision that changed my life.) I have no doubt that Governor Bryan also changed the lives of many other Nevada residents, a fact that is reflected in his statue in Reno and in Struve’s choice of write a book based on his leadership style.

Caleb S. Cage is a writer and native of Nevada who lives in Reno. He served three governors during his 14 years of service in the state of Nevada, working in the areas of veterans services, emergency management and homeland security, and education. He is currently the Vice Chancellor for Workforce Development for the Nevada Higher Education System. He has written on issues related to military conflicts, deserts and public policy.

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