Sue Wagner

Photo By David Robert

Sue Wagner has had a long public career in Nevada as a state assemblymember, senator, lieutenant governor and now a gambling regulator. Many important Nevada laws were enacted under her sponsorship. During that career, she lost her husband in a small plane crash and later nearly lost her own life in another small plane crash. The University of Nevada Press has published her oral history—an autobiography done through long personal interviews. It was done with interviewer Vicki Ford. She will have a book signing at Sundance Books on June 17.

What made you do this oral history?

An anonymous donor who I barely knew, didn’t know that well, was very anxious to have my oral history done. She thought that high school girls should have this to read it and see not only the fact that this is somebody that they could follow in the footsteps of or the fact that somebody overcame adversity and kept on plugging. And she asked somebody, “I wonder if I wrote a check if that would help.” She wrote a check for $10,000 and sent it in to the oral history department [at the University of Nevada] … At the end, they needed a little bit extra, and Marilyn Melton and Maya Miller and Jim McCormick, they then gave some extra.

How long did it take to do the interviews?

You don’t want to know how long it took. I said to these people down there, there’s sort of ambivalence about doing this. Now that it’s done, I’m glad it is, but I think it took about four years. Way too long. I mean, Vicki would say she would never, never do another one that took this long. It was not my fault, although I was ambivalent and I’d postpone things forever.

Are there revelations in here that you couldn’t say when you were in politics?

No, I don’t think so.

What was it like recalling all that history?

Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it was poignant, disappointing, exciting. Now, Vicki Ford also did [former assemblymember and senator] Jean Ford’s oral history, and that was done very differently because, you know, Jean was much more organized that I was. She had all these files and things.

Was it nostalgic, remembering all that stuff?

Oh, yes, in a way. But it certainly did not jerk me into thinking “Gosh, I wish was there [at the legislature] again.” No, no way did it do that.

What kind of feedback have you gotten?

The feedback is that it’s brought back a lot of memories for a lot of people who were involved in the Equal Rights Amendment struggle, the choice struggle. I’ve had messages left saying, “Gosh, this brought back this and that.” So that’s been a positive for a lot of people, that there was some record of it.