by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: 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.”