Nevada Governor's Transition

Oct 02, 2019

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The Nevada State Archives officially opened for business in October 4, 1965 under the aegis of the Secretary of State. However, in 1861, initial archives legislation designated that all Carson County and Utah-Nevada territorial records in possession of the Carson County Recorder were to be transferred to the Secretary of the Territory "to be safely preserved by him as public records of the Territory." Additionally, Constitutional Convention records were to be maintained by the Territorial Secretary of State.

Orion Clemens was appointed to be the Secretary of the Territory and hence the de facto first State Archivist of Nevada. Samuel Clemens came to Nevada to serve as his brother’s secretary but, finding that there was no money to pay him, then made his way to Virginia City and worked as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. It was there that he first used his nom de plume Mark Twain.

In 1957, the State Board of Examiners, consisting of the Governor, Attorney-General and Secretary of State, were given the responsibility of authorizing the destruction of "old and obsolete” state records and maintaining a record of the final disposition of such materials. This allowed the Nevada Historical Society to receive records having historical value for preservation.

An attempt in 1967 to abolish the Division of Archives and establish the Nevada Historical Society as the sole repository of archival records failed. Various laws pertaining to state and local historical records were amended to clarify that the Division of Archives, not the Nevada Historical Society, was the official repository of noncurrent state government records. After a few name changes and the addition of records management responsibilities, the State Archives is now part of the State Library, Archives and Public Records Division of the Department of Administration.

Records Management staff, with input from the archives staff, work with state agencies to create retention and disposition schedules which are presented to the State Records Committee for approval. Though Governor’s Records are to be transferred to the State Archives after the term in office expires, changes of administration in the Governor’s Office always bring heartburn. I have yet to experience a smooth transition in my 26 years as an archivist.

Governor Sandoval was a two-term governor, so we knew that we would be confronting a large quantity of records in paper and electronic formats. Nevada Archives staff began to work with the Governor’s staff a year before the end of his term. In theory, this was an improvement from previous Governor transfers as that office’s staff usually waits until the January transition period to contact us. The reality was much different.

A month before Governor Sisolak was sworn in, I reviewed the retention and disposition schedule with Governor Sandoval’s remaining staff so they would know which records were to be transferred to the archives. We purchased a portable drive for staff to use. Instead, the transition team contacted Nevada’s Enterprise Information Technology Services (EITS) to move everything to a server. It is never a sure bet using EITS. This central state information technology agency is consistently understaffed and constantly hiring new employees, so the quality of service is uneven.

I had to submit a Help Desk ticket to EITS so that the files would be placed in the Archives Folder where we could access them after the Governor’s Office transition. In the meantime, we received requests from reporters asking about Governor Sandoval’s records but were unable to respond. Our new Administrator fielded the calls and informed the press that we would comply with requests as soon as we had the relevant records. It took several days before the records were successfully moved to our server and folders.

Executive Orders and Proclamations are generally the most requested records and archives staff had downloaded those files to our server before Governor Sandoval left office and his website disappeared. While there may be some Executive Orders and Proclamations scattered throughout the paper records, these records are exclusively digital. There may be some overlap for the Appointments Files as they exist in both formats.

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Governor Sandoval’s paper records had been transferred to the State Records Center before the end of his second term, so that piece of the process went smoothly. Liz Moore, our accessioning archivist, handled pallets full of boxes in several stages. Most of those records were constituent correspondence. Speeches, invitations and reports comprise most of the remaining paper records.

No matter how early we begin meetings with the Governor’s staff, it always comes down to a scramble at the last minute. Since new staff members contacted the archives about some of the electronic records transferred to us, we hope that we can build upon this and develop a relationship with the staff. If all else fails, I hope this is a two-term governor and I will be retired before he leaves office!



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