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Bruce Woodbury enjoying life after politics

Not many can say they have two streets, a post office and a major beltway named after them. At least not those who haven’t served as president.

While Bruce Woodbury would humbly express his appreciation for those accolades, what he’s most proud of is his service to residents for nearly three decades as a Clark County commissioner.

“I was always interested in politics but as a kid I was very shy and had a fear of public speaking – so I became a lawyer and politician,” he said, laughing.

In 1981, Boulder City’s Bob Broadbent was serving as county commissioner but resigned to go into the Ronald Reagan administration, so that left an opening on the commission dais. Woodbury was appointed by Gov. Robert List to the position and “then they couldn’t get rid of me for 28 years.”

“The county commission was not on my radar screen,” he said at the time he was appointed. “He (List) had to appoint a Republican and it had to be someone who lived in that district. I wasn’t really thinking about it. A friend said, ‘I understand you have your hat in the ring for this appointment.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I found out a couple of my friends had put my name in with the governor without even talking to me.”

The following year he was an official candidate on the ballot but it was not without hesitancy. Between his family and law practice, he wasn’t sure he’d have the time necessary to continue serving on the commission. And, at that time, his district encompassed nearly half of Clark County including Boulder City, Henderson, Mesquite and Laughlin.

“Many had told me that I should do it, win, lose or draw, because if I didn’t, I would regret it,” he said. “I went for it and while I was not considered the favorite by any means, we won by a pretty good margin. In 1984, to fill a full term, I got some pretty strong opposition in the Republican Party but we won that by like a 2-to-1 margin. After that I didn’t face what you’d call serious opposition.”

Over the years, Woodbury said he was approached by many who encouraged him to run for higher office such as attorney general or Congress. But those positions, had he won, would mean uprooting his large family and moving to Washington, D.C. or Carson City and that wasn’t something he wished to do.

“First off, we loved Boulder City and our life here,” he said. “I felt I could do more good in local government since at that time I had some seniority and a lot of programs underway.”

In the early 1990s, as a member of the Regional Transportation Commission, Woodbury said at that time the Las Vegas area had a roadway system good for a population of around 250,000 people. But the number of residents was already way past that and was growing rapidly. Being both the chairman of the county commission and RTC, he proposed the Master Transportation Plan for additional freeways, roads and mass transit. A funding plan was put into place and after campaigning, the voters gave the plan the nod. The result was the 215 as well as pedestrian walkways over the Las Vegas Strip with additional improvements being made to this day.

Aside from transportation, something else he’s very proud of during his tenure was the flood control plan. He said many of the neighborhoods in his district would get wiped out during floods because nothing was in place to prevent it. The end result was a new flood plan and district. He also helped lead the way in improving air quality in the Las Vegas Valley and proposed the Clean Air Action Plan.

“There’s still a sense of satisfaction,” he said in regard to these major ongoing projects. “I’m proud that these initiatives got done. Otherwise, why be in office if you’re not there to try and get things done?”

When 2009 came around and he had hit his term limit, Woodbury found himself no longer having the title of county commissioner.

“It’s funny how less popular you become,” he said, grinning. “It was different but I realized there was life after politics and I was fine with that. I was still on the board of many nonprofit organizations and, I still had my law practice.”

The Las Vegas Beltway, which was later named in Woodbury’s honor, is roughly 50 miles of roadway that circles more than three quarters of Las Vegas and Henderson and is still being built.

So, what it’s like driving on a major roadway with one’s name on it?

“It was surreal and still is,” he said. “I’ll be driving on it and all of a sudden there’s the sign and oh my gosh. Maybe I’ll do something to deserve that someday.”

He laughed and added, “I’ve never been stopped on there. I’ve always thought that would be interesting – maybe by one of the signs. Unfortunately, they did not give me a dedicated lane of travel.”

Woodbury’s son, Rod, and daughter, Missy, followed in his political footsteps serving as Boulder City mayor and as an assemblywoman, respectively. While he didn’t encourage them to get into politics, he was very proud of them and offered advice, which included ensuring their desire for the job and the loss of privacy while “taking a few dart throws at you from time to time.”

He and his wife Rose, who were high school sweethearts while attending Las Vegas High School, raised seven children and now have 25 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren and another on the way. He spends his time these days enjoying his family, reading and following his beloved New York Yankees. But politics aren’t far from his mind now and then.

“Occasionally I miss it when I think I could make a difference on some important issue or when former constituents reach out to me,” he said. “For the most part, I miss the people I worked with and those I served, not so much the political agendas of colleagues and lobbyists.”

Ron Eland is editor of the Boulder City Review. He can be reached at reland@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523.

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