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Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza takes the oath of office Jan. 7.

County officials take oath of office

ELKO — A slate of Elko County elected officials took the oath of office under the guidance of Al Kacin, Elko District Court Department II judge, with a standing-room only audience in the Nannini Administration Building Jan. 7.

Newly elected Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza took the helm at Elko County’s law enforcement department. Formerly a sergeant, Narvaiza has 23 years of experience. In the November general election, he defeated Jim Pitts who served two terms as sheriff.

After the swearing in, Narvaiza’s supporters and family lined up along the commissioners’ dais for a photo, hugs and handshakes.

Later in the day, Elko County Board of Commissioners commended the former sheriff for his years of service and dedicated a plaque, with Commissioner Rex Steninger saying, “Thank you, Jim.”

With smiles, nervousness and emotion, the available Elko County winners of the general election took turns at the lectern with Kacin, raising their right hands and pledging their service to their positions.

Each solemnly swore to “support, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States, and the Constitution and government of the state of Nevada against all enemies whether domestic or foreign and that I will bear true faith and allegiance and loyalty to the same any ordinance, resolution or law notwithstanding, and that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties of the office ….”

District Attorney Tyler Ingram took the oath of office to continue as the county’s district attorney. He was appointed in 2016 and ran unopposed for a four-year term.

Kristine “Kris” Jakeman was sworn in to serve as Elko County clerk. She ran unopposed to fill the vacancy left by Carol Fosmo, who retired. Jakeman has more than 25 years of experience in the courts system and election management.

Cheryl Paul took her place as Elko County treasurer. She fills the vacancy left by Rebecca Erickson. Paul has more than 16 years of experience in the treasurer’s office.

Taking his seat on the Elko County School Board was Brian Zeiszler. He works at Great Basin College as a program supervisor for secondary education and has teaching experience in Elko schools. He defeated incumbent Stacie Phillips for District 1.

Tammie Cracraft-Dickenson took the oath of office to continue service on the Elko County School Board for District 2. She was appointed to the role in 2016 and ran unopposed for the full term.

Ira T. Wines took the oath to serve another term on the Elko County School Board. He has been a trustee since 2016 and ran unopposed in the general election.

Candice Wines rounds out the Elko County School board as the newly elected trustee for District 6, but she was not present for the ceremony.

Cliff Eklund ran unopposed to retain his position on the Elko County Board of Commissioners, a seat he has held since first elected in 2014. Previously, he served as a councilman and mayor for the city of Carlin.

Unopposed incumbent Delmo Andreozzi will also continue his service on the Elko County Board of Commissioners. He was not present for the swearing-in ceremony.

Katrinka S. Russell pledged to uphold the duties of the county assessor’s office. She ran unopposed for the position she has held since 2008.

Taking on his third term as Elko County recorder was D. Mike Smales. He previously worked for the county for 22 years and has a background in information technology.

Wells Justice of the Peace Kenny Calton, Carlin Justice of the Peace Teri Feasel and Elko Civic Auditorium Board member Toni Jewell also took the oath of office for their positions.

Also on Jan. 7, the Elko County commissioners appointed Steninger as board chairman and commissioner Demar Dahl as vice chair.

Kristin McQueary, chief civil deputy district attorney, announced her retirement planned for later this month. She has served the county for more than 26 years.

Questions linger after Nevada death-row inmate found dead

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The apparent suicide of a death-row inmate who authorities say wanted to die and tried several times to kill himself amid court fights and postponements of his execution renewed debate Monday about his treatment and the death penalty itself.

Attorneys for Scott Raymond Dozier, who was found dead in his Nevada state prison cell on Saturday, lamented the twice-convicted killer’s death. His executions were canceled in November 2017 and July 2018.

“The system, I think, is broken and it’s hard on everybody,” Dozier defense attorney Thomas Ericsson said.

Just minutes after taking office Monday, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak referred to the death of Dozier and said he talked recently with outgoing Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and prison officials about Nevada’s capital punishment law. He said he would await the results of an ongoing investigation.

“We can’t execute anybody even if they’re demanding it,” said Scott Coffee, a deputy public defender in Las Vegas who wants capital punishment abolished in Nevada. “The legal process and the mental health effects on people who are sentenced to death has become the mental equivalent of torture.”

Dozier, 48, had suspended appeals of his sentence and said repeatedly he wanted to die rather than live his life in prison. He had complained in a federal lawsuit in November that being placed on suicide watch three times and administrative segregation once in the previous year was “blatantly unconstitutional” and cruel.

His attorneys reported that while under observation, he was stripped to his underwear and placed in an infirmary cell with only a mattress and a blanket. They also revealed that he apparently cut his neck and wrist in October.

They said Dozier was found to have tried to obtain drops of a deadly drug on a piece of paper sent through prison mail and had somehow obtained razor blades behind bars.

A state prison psychologist who examined him concluded in October that Dozier was “secretly seeking an outlet to end his problems, worries and stress.” She said the prison could not afford to lose Dozier to suicide and called it “clinically best to be safe than sorry.”

However, Dozier was not on suicide watch Saturday. He was housed alone in the death-row cell where he was found with a noose fashioned from a bed sheet tied to an air vent, prisons spokeswoman Brooke Santina said.

If Dozier had been on suicide watch, he would have been in an observation cell with little clothing, a tamper-resistant mattress and a blanket made of quilted canvas designed not to be ripped, torn or bunched up, Santina said.

White Pine County Sheriff Scott Henriod said there was no indication of foul play. An autopsy is pending.

Both Ericsson and the prosecutor who handled Dozier’s 2007 conviction in the 2002 methamphetamine trade robbery-murder of 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller in Las Vegas all referred to the starts and stops of the case. Dozier also was convicted in Arizona of second-degree murder for killing 26-year-old Jasen Green in 2002 near Phoenix.

Prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci noted that Miller’s family was involved in the case for more than 16 years.

“It’s been such a long and emotional process,” Pesci said. “Clearly, the Nevada Department of Corrections had reason to be concerned that he was suicidal.”

Nevada now has 79 people on death row, Santina said. Dozier would have been the first inmate executed in the state since 2006.

Three drug companies still have cases pending stemming from Dozier’s case, including a Nevada Supreme Court challenge of state plans to use their products for intentional lethal injection.

“The delays caused by the criminal justice system and the civil litigation brought by the drug companies have been hard on the victims’ family and Scott and his family,” Ericsson said.

Ken Ritter 

In this Aug. 17, 2017 photo, Nevada death row inmate Scott Raymond Dozier confers with Lori Teicher, a federal public defender involved in his case.

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Longtime KELK broadcaster Dee Ray Gardner remembered

ELKO – “The last of an era of broadcasters” is being remembered for his impact on the community.

Dee Ray Gardner, who owned and operated KELK 1240 AM radio, died Jan. 3 at the age of 93 following an illness.

Starting out the general manager of KELK in 1968, Gardner and his wife, Ginger, purchased Elko Broadcasting three years later, broadcasting Top 40 music, news, sports and events.

Keeping the community informed of events was especially important to Gardner, remembered KELK news director Lori Gilbert, who watched his commitment to Elko in his programming when Gardner owned the station.

“He was truly the last of an era of broadcasters who understood the impact and responsibility of community service through local radio,” Gilbert said. “The whole Gardner family had an excellent reputation for service to the community.”

Organizations, athletic teams and the Elko High School Band were some of those who benefited from the airtime Gardner provided, said former band director Walt Lovell, who became a part-time disc jockey just after moving to Elko in 1978.

“He helped us with anything I ever asked,” Lovell said. “Just instrumental in publicizing events, and he was always there.”

One example of Gardner’s community support was when the band was driving to Elko in a blizzard following their appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Lovell recalled. Gardner kept listeners informed of the band’s safety on the road and when they were expected to arrive on Highway 40.

As the band approached what is now the East End Shopping Center, Lovell said they saw the parking lot filled with cars and covered with several inches of snow.

“When we came into town, they all turned on their lights and honked their horns,” Lovell remembered. “We had this big parade going down to the school. He helped organize that.”

Gilbert recalled Gardner as a mentor, first offering her a job at KELK and then supporting her career as she moved from being a DJ and reading public service announcements to hosting a half-hour news program, all “because Dee Ray encouraged and supported me.”

“The Gardner family has always had my back,” Gilbert said. “I would not be a broadcaster today if it weren’t for Dee Ray.”

Described as “warm and friendly, funny, ‘old school’ and a gentleman” by Gilbert, Gardner also had a smile and a quick wit for everyone who spoke to him, said Lovell. He explained that Gardner had a special ability to lift the spirits of others.

“He always had a quip … he was always up,” Lovell said. “I can’t ever remember a day even when Dee Ray had his health problems toward the end and any other time I saw him there wasn’t a smile on his face.”

“If I was having a bad day, I would go talk to him,” Lovell said.

Although the radio station was purchased in 1992 by Paul and Ketra Gardner, Dee Ray Gardner’s influence remains long lasting and will not be forgotten, Gilbert said.

“The entire team at Elko Broadcasting Company will work together to honor his legacy,” she said.

Elko named best city to live in Nevada

ELKO – A quarter-century after being named “The Best Small Town in America,” Elko has earned the title of best city to live in the state of Nevada.

An article posted last week by the website 24/7 Wall St., and reprinted in USA Today, lists the “best” city in each state. Elko was selected because of its high household income, low cost of living, and rapid population growth.

“While quality of life is subject to a range of factors – close relationships and personal health being among the most important – the local community and environment can also have a meaningful impact,” states the Jan. 2 article by Samuel Stebbins and Grant Suneson.

24/7 Wall St. created a weighted index of more than two dozen measures, and applied it to all population centers with at least 8,000 residents.

The article lists Elko’s population at 20,078, up 11 percent over the past five years. Median home value is listed at $215,100 and median household income at $76,826.

“Elko has by far the highest median household income of anywhere in Nevada,” states the article. “Although Elko residents tend to earn a relatively high amount, it is the least expensive place to live in Nevada. The cost of living in Elko is just 83.9 percent of what it costs in the typical American city.”

The authors also claim Elko is the fastest-growing place in Nevada “by a wide margin. In the past seven years, its population increased 18.7 percent to just over 20,000 people. During that same timeframe, no other place in the state had a population increase of more than 10 percent.”

The study used a complex mix of data, penalizing cities for high poverty rates and drug overdose mortality. It also analyzed the population-adjusted number of entertainment and cultural venues such as restaurants and museums, based on the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns data set.

Elko Mayor Reece Keener saw the designation as a good sign for the year ahead.

“This USA Today ranking confirms what we already knew: Elko is tops for quality of life. Gold mining, our anchor industry, provides incredible employment opportunities to our workforce. We also have an abundance of outdoor recreation, and we’ll see the new Elko Sports Complex moving toward completion in 2019,” Keener said. “I also expect to see new, national retailers locating into the old Kmart property Elko later this year. All of the leading economic indicators point to a prosperous 2019 for our community.”

This is not the first time Elko has been distinguished above other towns. In 1993, author Norman Crampton published the first edition of “The 100 Best Small Towns in America” and Elko topped the list.

At that time, Elko’s population was listed at 14,736 people and growing, thanks to a robust gold mining industry.

“Gold mining, gambling, cattle ranching — on paper, at least, Elko looks as if it could be a ripsnorting little piece of the Old West,” Crampton wrote.

Some of the factors he considered included scenic location, social diversity, education level, school spending and quality of newspapers.

Farther back in history, noted news broadcaster Lowell Thomas called Elko “the last real cowtown in the American West.” The county’s vast rangelands gained fame in the 1940s when Hollywood stars such as Bing Crosby, Joel McCrea and Jimmy Stewart purchased ranches here. Crosby went on to be named the honorary mayor of Elko.

Not everyone has agreed with outsiders’ views of the city and county. After Crampton’s book was published, the Deseret News in Salt Lake City ran an Associated Press article titled “Elkoans flattered – and flabbergasted – by rating.

Mayor Jim Polkinghorne was one of the people contacted by Crampton during his survey in 1992.

“I thought no way in the world we’d come out number 1,” the mayor said.