Mineral County Board of County Commissioner Chairwoman Jerrie Tipton sat in her last commissioner meeting as a public official Wednesday.
Those that meet Tipton and take the time to visit with her relate her to be a “salt of the earth” person.
When asked what she feels her biggest accomplishment was while serving Mineral County, she explains, “I don’t know if it’s just one thing.”
As she sits and ponders the question, she states, “Playing with Nevada Association of Counties gave us, this county, the clout to get some statutes amended that are beneficial to rural counties, for example, the airport. The land at the airport we no longer have to lease it, we no longer have to go to commercial appraisals and lease to the highest appraised value. “
Another accomplishment was working the Nevada State Land Use with putting together the process and protocol for Mineral County roads and getting it through statute that if one is ever closed, if the county had not gone through the process, getting it through legislature, if the road in question ever went to court, if either agency wants to close the road, Mineral County will not have to go to court – instead, the Attorney General’s office will handle the case. The R.S. 2477 statute which Tipton worked with Nevada State Land Use states that nothing “…shall be construed as terminating any valid lease, permit, patent, right-of-way, or other land use authorization existing on the date of approval of this Act.”
“From an overall standpoint, this is huge,” Tipton explained.
An eye opener for Tipton as commissioner, was working with the Mason Valley Conservation District. A district, which she explains, is 90 percent Mineral County land.
“There never was a county commissioner that sat on that board for Mineral County,” she said, smiling. “For me, part of me playing on that level, has brought more awareness in Lyon County about Walker Lake and water to Walker Lake and that is not something I will ever have the opportunity to do again.”
She explained that Mineral County did not have a voice in the state or national arena. By attending meetings all over the county for NACO and such, Mineral County “had a voice.”
“Mineral County is well known throughout the state and the national level because of those things,” she said.
In Tipton’s “other life” – mining is at a forefront. The knowledge she brought to the commissioner table on the first and third Wednesday’s of the month, allowed the county and citizens to be informed about new mining ventures in the area. She took the lead on getting Isabella Pearl to the top of the list of interest with state and federal offices. Knowing the importance of getting citizens to work and the tax base that these operations bring, Tipton continued to push until Isabella Pearl was on the radar of everyone involved.
“The county is a continuing, ongoing process to get your department heads to talk to each other, to depend on each other. I think there is a better feeling in the county now. Those folks out there in the public are our bosses. They pay our wages and we have to try hard not to piss them off,” she stated after explaining her role as commissioner. “But our people still need to do their job.” Getting department heads together and talking was a big priority with Tipton when she first took office in 2006. She would meet with each one, listen to their concerns, voice her opinion and try to find a fair and even road for each department to take, while still wearing her commissioner hat.
“Not having a county manager is a challenge as each one of the commissioners has to take on these duties. When we were able to have department heads meetings with a commissioner sitting there and not telling them what to do but at least to take information back to the board, it works better,” she said.
Being a commissioner has not always been easy for Tipton. “Sometimes being a commissioner is not easy. You have to put aside your own personal biases or whatever – because if it’s good for the county.”
When asked what she will do after December, she said with a sigh, “God, I hope I get my house finished.”
But anyone that knows Tipton, knows she will never be the stay at home housewife. She will tell you. Her passion in life, is dirt and land restoration. Tipton looks at the Hawthorne Army Depot as a blank canvas and the possibilities of what could be accomplished out there are as endless as her imagination. Making the base into a functioning animal wildlife sanctuary while still allowing the day to day operations of the base to continue is just one of her ideas. “But I still have a handful of cows,” she said smiling.
When asked what was one of the disappointments of being a commissioner, she said, “I wish before I was out of office, we would have been able to settle [the Chicken Farm] pending lawsuit on the old Babbitt property.”
On a personal note, she reflects on the loss of two commissioners while she was serving. “It was hard losing Clifford [Cichowlaz] and then Paul [MacBeth].” As she remembers each of the commissioners she had the opportunity to serve with, she remembers each for their weakness and strengths that they brought to the county and the board.
As she reflected back on her time with the board of commissioners, those close to her reflected on Tipton.
Legal advisor to the commissioners, Mineral County District Attorney Sean Rowe told the Independent-News, “To say that I enjoyed working with Jerrie for the last 12 years is an understatement. She has been a tireless advocate for Mineral County and rural Nevada both here in the state and nationally. I will always miss the mischievous look she would give me before launching into a tangent, knowing that I might caution her to stay on the agenda. If you ever have the opportunity to travel rural Nevada with Jerrie, I recommend it. She can identify the ownership of most ranches, the birthplaces of their owners and the time someone’s distant cousin ran into them at a drinking hole that no longer exists. I know that her retirement from the Board will not be the end of her public service; I do, however, hope she pauses long enough to finish building her house.”
The clerk of the board, Chris Nepper fondly states, “It was a pleasure working with Jerrie, since taking office she has been incredibly graceful with me learning the ropes and guiding me through the ins and outs of the board.”
The senior commissioner to two newbie’s, Tipton has helped to guide Commissioners Garth Price and Chris Hegg.
“Jerrie has been an amazing guide for me and a fantastic fellow board member. Her vast knowledge will be greatly missed. I wish her the best in her future endeavors,” Hegg said.
Price would reflect on Tipton and state, “It was an honor and an absolute pleasure to work with Commissioner Tipton these last two years. To say she knows a lot about this county is a complete understatement. I appreciate every bit of information she has passed on, and I know anytime I have a question she’ll be just a phone call away. I hope you enjoy retirement for the hour it will last. I know Tony has a list.”
The Independent-News has covered Tipton throughout the years, and this article would not be complete without leaving you with some “Jerrie-ism’s”:
“Talk to me, Kid. I will remember that forever,” Nepper said.
“It won’t harelip the pope,” Price said and “Jerrie’s famous coined phrase, “Before I wore this hat… was always followed by a story that related to the topic at hand. We will all miss those moments with her and I am sure she will remain a vital link to State and Federal resources for years to come,” Hegg concluded.
“I was never in the job for the money, glory or had an issue or agenda I wanted to fix or change. I was only in it to try to make it better for folks, easier to do business, more open and functional, more economic opportunities, etc. and I hope I made more of a positive difference than negative,” Tipton concluded in her last interview as a county commissioner.