Two dedicated staffers retire in Mississippi and California, and Nevada says final goodbyes to two others, far too soon.
Performance accountability director, Mississippi Joint Committee on Program Evaluation and Expenditure Review
More than 40 years ago, Linda Triplett dreamed of doing relevant and intellectually challenging work with bright colleagues, a place where she “would never be bored because I would constantly be learning new things.” She found that dream job with the Mississippi Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) in March 1979. She retired Dec. 1, 2020.
Rewarding moments during her career included “helping a legislator with background research that ultimately became law, including the timely deposit of state funds into interest-bearing accounts, drug courts and, most recently, the state’s Results First legislation stemming from our work with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative.” Triplett found the Results First Initiative collaboration with front-line agency staff to be particularly gratifying. “Amidst all the cynicism directed at government today, I found it very rewarding to meet people who genuinely cared about improving the lives of people they served,” she says.
Triplett also served as chair of the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society and as a staff at-large member of NCSL’s Executive Committee. “I was able to offer ideas and see them brought to life, bigger and better than we even imagined,” she says, citing the Legislative Staff Certificate Program. Triplett’s idea to educate the public about state legislatures resulted in NCSL’s ‘Building Democracy’ podcast.
Deputy research director, Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau
Remembered for her wisdom, wit and tell-it-like-it-is personality, longtime Nevada legislative staffer Marsheilah Lyons died in April. Lyons served 20 years in the Legislative Counsel Bureau, most recently as deputy research director.
Lyons was an expert in health, human services and child care policy, among other subjects. She also contributed her expertise and shared insights with colleagues at the national level, serving on NCSL’s Health and Human Services Standing Committee and the Task Force on Innovations in State Health Systems. She led the HHS committee multiple times as staff co-chair and vice chair and spoke at many of NCSL’s meetings. She served on NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee, which is an advisory group that oversees NCSL’s programming and services for legislative staff.
In light-hearted moments at her memorial service, several colleagues noted her ability to offer gentle guidance and communicate her thoughts through facial expressions. “She had a great, ‘Did you really…?’ look,” says Michael Stewart, research director at the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
Nevada legislative staff and legislators on both sides of the aisle noted her commitment to public service, ideals of fairness, and thoughtful, problem-solving nature. “Over 20 years, the laws that we have passed in this state have been better and have made more of an impact in the lives of people in Nevada because of Marsheilah Lyons,” Senator Julia Ratti (D) said at the service.
Legislative counsel, California Office of Legislative Counsel
Diane Boyer-Vine served as legislative counsel to the California Assembly for 18 years. As the state’s first female legislative counsel, she led an office of 600 staff responsible for nonpartisan bill drafting, legal counsel and supporting IT. She served as chair of NCSL’s Legal Services Staff Section from 2007 to 2008 and is a member of the Uniform Law Commission.
On the last day of the 2020 California session, Boyer-Vine was honored by Senate and Assembly members for her leadership and for her astute counsel. Many members who recognized Boyer-Vine, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) and Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D), mentioned her guidance in the development of California’s Workplace Conduct Unit, which was established in 2018 and created an office to investigate complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the Legislature.
In her remarks on the Senate floor, Boyer-Vine said it had been 32 years since she started in the Legislature as a Senate intern. That experience “led me away from business law to the legislative process, and it’s the best kind of law any lawyer can practice.”
Sergeant-at-arms, Nevada Assembly
Nevada Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Robin Bates’ boisterous laugh could be heard throughout the Capitol, often after playing an elaborate prank on a colleague.
Bates died from COVID-19 on Feb. 1, just as session was beginning. “We all share in this grief because we all shared in our love for Robin,” Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D) says. “He was our friend, our trusted confidant and our biggest cheerleader.”
Bates “wasn’t just a sergeant-at-arms, he was a friend,” Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D) told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “A great man who always put service above self,” Assemblyman Philip P.K. O’Neill (R) tweeted.
After 27 years with the Nevada Department of Corrections, including a stint as a prison warden, Bates joined the Assembly’s sergeant-at-arms office in 2001. Two years later, he became the chamber’s principal law enforcement officer. He immediately professionalized the office “to reflect the seriousness of the work done here,” Frierson says. “He proudly upheld the traditions of the Assembly and represented this House with distinction and honor, both here and nationally. … He was truly the heart and soul of this chamber.”
Bates was a member of the National Legislative Services and Security Association, one of NCSL’s nine professional staff associations.
Angela Andrews is the director of NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services Program; Kate Blackman is the director of NCSL’s Health Program; and Julie Lays, the former editor of State Legislatures magazine, retired from NCSL in April 2020.
These profiles were first published in the Summer 2021 edition of State Legislatures magazine.