In Surprise Move, State Senate Majority Leader Replaces Long-Time Top Staffer

CARSON CITY – In what took many members of the Nevada state Senate by surprise today, Majority Leader Steven Horsford accepted the resignation of the body’s top staff member, Secretary of the Senate Claire Clift.

Word of Clift’s departure, which occurred today while Horsford was in the capital attending a meeting of the Interim Finance Committee’s Subcommittee for Federal Stimulus Oversight, circulated quickly among members of the Senate.

Clift was appointed as secretary of the Senate in 2000 by Sen. William Raggio, R-Reno, who was majority leader at the time.

Horsford, D-Las Vegas, became majority leader in 2009 after Democrats gained the majority in the upper house for the first time since 1991.

Clift, reached at home, said she was surprised but accepting of Horsford’s decision. The decision came today without any advance notice. Clift left today and said she will seek other, hopefully less stressful, work opportunities.

“The secretary of the Senate works at the prerogative of the majority leader,” she said. “Sen. Horsford felt he needed someone else in the position. I respect that.”

Clift said the 2011 legislative session will be challenging for lawmakers, but she expects the Senate to find a qualified person to serve as secretary.

As to an explanation for her departure, Clift said she believes Horsford wants to take the Senate in a new direction.

“I’m OK with that,” she said. “It is just an opportunity for the majority leader to change things up.”

Clift said the Senate was a wonderful place to work, and the 21 senators of the upper house were great people to work for.

“It will remain a wonderful place to work,” she said.

Horsford could not immediately be reached for comment on his decision.

Clift worked for the Senate in 1987 and 1989, taking a full-time position in 1997. She took over as secretary of the Senate in 2000 after Jan Thomas retired after many years of service.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said she was perplexed by the decision, especially since the 2011 legislative session will be one of the most difficult ever, with a major budget shortfall, several new members due to term limits and many pressing issues for lawmakers to deal with.

“You can’t get better than Claire,” she said. “Bringing in someone new with no experience makes no sense. Claire is absolutely excellent at what she does. I’m in shock, actually.”

  • Lydia

    I am in total agreement with Senator Cegavske. There is no one better qualified with legislative and constitutional expertise in this field than was Claire, anywhere in the world.

  • Victor

    I would be interested in any follow-up to this story regarding Horsford’s motivation.

  • Dave

    Hmmmmm…… Hopefully Senator Horsford will appoint someone qualified for the position and not some crony from Las Vegas. Claire did an awesome job, was always prepared, and very professional. Judging from some of the people Horsford brought up to his office, he has a tough job ahead of him in selecting someone of Claire’s caliber.

  • Barbara

    What in the world can that man be thinking? This is a tsunami of a move with waves of repercussions to follow.

  • Jeff

    With 2011 being one of the roughest years in a long time, were at the eleventh hour for such a questionable move. Maybe Nevada should take a hard look at Senator Horsford!

  • anonymous

    Please, that woman was impossible. Unless you were a senator you were dirt beneath her feet. Just there to be tread upon.

    Was she knowledgeable? Yes! Did she know procedures? Yes. But after that she had nothing, and I mean nothing that is required in a boss supervising many, many people.

    How many times I saw her humiliate and ridicule people! Grown people reduced to tears!

    She should have never been put in that position. Of course you never can tell what a little bit of power will do to someone until they have it!

  • anonymous2

    Claire Clift was an excellent boss. I have never seen her be anything but kind and helpful. Any legislative session is stressful enough. Now, we will have new legislators, staff, major issues and a new boss. Claire Clift did her job well. She will be sincerely missed.

  • Chandler In Las Vegas

    “Bringing in someone new with no experience makes no sense…”

    A shot across the bow of all Northern Nevadans.

    Welcome to reapportionment and redistricting 101.

    Fasten your seat belts.

  • Anonymous

    Claire brought a lot in to the position….a replacement will be very difficult to find, but possible…the Secretary of State’s Office has perhaps the best candidate…years of state government experience, management, budgeting, etc….it will be interesting to see hos this one turns out.