Michael Stewart has retired after more than 27 years of service to Nevada, most of that with the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
Stewart, who led the Research Division, said goodbye to colleagues at a retirement party in December. “It was a wonderful reunion of so many former and current Research Division staff, but it is really sad to see him go,” said Jennifer Ruedy, chief principal policy analyst, who worked with Stewart for more than 20 years. “He is a fabulous mentor who genuinely cares about the people and the institution.”
Michael has the effect of making absolutely everyone he meets feel like a valued partner and friend. —Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson
Before joining the Nevada Legislature, Stewart served in the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office, where he worked closely with local election officers in the administration of state election laws. He was acknowledged as an expert in elections and redistricting issues, assisting with three cycles of legislative redistricting in Nevada, presenting on the topic at several NCSL meetings and serving on NCSL’s Redistricting and Elections Standing Committee.
Stewart became director of the Research Division in January 2018. Before that, he served as lead staff on legislative committees covering dozens of other topic areas, including government affairs, natural resources, government ethics, legislative affairs and transportation.
He was generous with his expertise as well as his counsel and time. “Michael always had an ‘open door policy,’ and he never turned away any staff or legislator needing to talk,” Ruedy said.
Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson called Stewart the “exceedingly competent face of the LCB Research Division for as long as most can remember. More importantly, Michael has the effect of making absolutely everyone he meets feel like a valued partner and friend.”
Joe Kolman, Stewart’s counterpart in Montana’s Legislative Services Division, agreed. “Michael is one of those rare folks for whom being nice is in his DNA,” he said. “As legislative staff, we work in a world where it’s easy to become cynical. But, after all those years, Michael not only managed to always give people a chance, he’d give them second and third chances. Michael is a role model for how people should go through life: Expect people to do their best and be nice.”
Stewart offered this advice to other managers and staff:
- Always begin your interactions with others with a smile, hello or a warm greeting ... then ask for what you need or answer their questions.
- Always give others the benefit of the doubt.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff; keep the bigger picture in mind.
- Hire talented people, provide great training, be available to your employees, and trust that they will get the job done.
‘A Known Star’
Outside of work, Stewart has performed for the past 30 years as a competitive barbershop quartet singer.
“He is a known star in the barbershop quartet world,” Assemblywoman and Majority Floor Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson said. “We are fortunate that he has an equal brilliance in the public policy world, and that he devoted his professional life to bettering Nevada.”
“His service has always been of the highest caliber, a true example of what a true nonpartisan staff should be,” Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer said. “The legislature in Nevada has experienced a loss of institutional knowledge that is incalculable.”.
Stewart says he will miss the excitement, pace and variety of his legislative work.
“Staffing various committees over the years and working with different players—staff colleagues, legislators, lobbyists, the public and others—in the legislative environment was thrilling to me,” he said.
And while he’s taking some time off, Stewart isn’t ruling out a return to the Legislature in some capacity. “I hope I contributed, in a small way, to the betterment of the state of Nevada and the legislative institution.”
Holly South is with NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services Program and serves as the liaison to the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries.