Retired state Sen. Bill Raggio was honored Tuesday as a statesman who put Nevada's interests above party politics and whose nearly 40-year legislative career set an example for those who followed.
Raggio, 84, said he was humbled as his colleagues inducted him into the Nevada Senate Hall of Fame.
"I never thought that I'd serve this long in this body," said Raggio, who was first elected in 1972. He served 38 years in the Senate, making him the longest-serving senator in Nevada history. It's a distinction the Reno Republican is likely to retain because of term limits that have since taken effect.
"Now, looking back, I realize almost half my life has been spent as a member of the Senate and I've truly appreciated the opportunity I've had," he said.
"They are wonderful memories. There were good times, tough times and fun times."
Raggio was noted for putting the state's interests above partisanship, and working to solve problems. Before his retirement, he lamented the bitter tone of modern day politics.
Raggio retired in January just weeks before the 2011 Legislature began. He was replaced by Sen. Greg Brower, a former U.S. attorney appointed by the Washoe County Commission to serve out Raggio's term that ends next year.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, recalled being fearful of the Reno senator when he served as a legislative intern.
"I literally was so afraid of Sen. Bill Raggio that I avoided coming to the Senate chamber," he said.
But over the years, Horsford, himself elected in 2004, said he "got to know the man, Bill Raggio, not just the state senator."
"You've been an example for those of us who now stand on your shoulders, senator, to carry the torch of what it truly means to be a statesman in the state of Nevada."
Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, who challenged Raggio for the leadership post before his retirement, said Raggio's "unique knowledge of the state budget and legislative process will never again be realized."
Raggio, a former district attorney, took some good-natured ribbing for borrowing money from colleagues.
"His ability to get $20 out of everybody has never been met," Horsford joked.
The quip was echoed by others, some of whom passed $20 bills to the chamber's statesmen.
After the ceremony on the Senate floor, a plaque was unveiled in the Senate leadership committee room. It reads in part that Raggio is a reminder "there are no barriers to what can be accomplished if we summon the will to work together."
Its place in the leadership offices, Horsford said, shows "it belongs to no party."