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Englehart placed the needs of Nevadans as a top priority

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Friends, colleagues and local government leaders are remembering a U.S. senator’s Nevada rural director as a representative who prioritized the needs of Nevadans at the forefront of his outreach.

Kurt Englehart, a 38-year-old aide to Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, was remembered Saturday at a memorial service for adopting Nevada as his home state. After moving to the West in October 2015 from his native Ohio, he became a rural caucus organizer in northern Nevada. Englehart died instantly in an April 6 fatal hit-and-run automobile crash in southeast Reno when another driver slammed into the aide’s side of his vehicle.

The day before the crash, Englehart delivered remarks in snow flurries at a Child Abuse Prevention Month ceremony at Fallon’s Millennium Park, and later that night, he attended a dinner in Reno.

The Ohio native graduated from Tri-Valley High School in Dresen and earned political science and public administration degrees from Zane State College in Zanesville and Muskingum College in New Concord.

“Kurt was just amazing,” Cortez Masto said. “He cared about Nevada and the people who live here.”

Cortez Masto said she appreciated Englehart’s ability to hear other people’s needs and how he reached out to the senator’s constituents whenever he could.

“He put his focus on Nevada and rural communities. He believed in making sure we were connected,” she added.

When Cortez Masto spent time in Nevada away from the daily interactions of Congress, she and Englehart would travel around the northern tier of Nevada, visiting local government officials and residents; yet, it was Englehart who would travel to the rural parts of the state on her behalf when she returned to Washington, D.C.

“He spent so much time in our rural communities,” the second-term senator said. “He built relationships because that’s who Kurt was. It wasn’t just about policy but connecting with so many Nevadans.”

Cortez Masto said Englehart’s personality was one of honesty, and he could talk with anyone and find common ground. At his memorial service at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Cortez Masto said her staff is deeply feeling the loss of Englehart’s loss.

“He was an essential part of my team,” she said, adding his loss is being felt by many others. “He had such a contagious warmth that brought everyone up.”

When Cortez Masto ran for re-election in 2022, Englehart had a role in her campaign and accompanied her to many communities, including Fallon, during the local cantaloupe festival. She and Englehart would sample different jams and pastries as she visited the various food booths. She said his positive attitude brought so much joy to her campaign, and she feels Englehart’s connectivity with the rural communities aided her in successful re-election.

“He was a fierce advocate who knew how [to] get a job done,” she pointed out.

On several other occasions, Cortez Masto and Englehart spent part of August on their rural trip, crossing the desert between the various communities. Cortez Masto said Englehart was a tenacious problem solver, especially in the rural communities.

Englehart was no stranger to Churchill County and the surrounding counties and had developed relationships with the city of Fallon and Churchill County, Naval Air Station Fallon and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. He also developed a strong working bond with the Walker River Paiute Tribe. 

Not only could Englehart reach across political boundaries, but he also embraced the Native American communities.

Amber Torres, former tribal chairwoman of the Walker River Paiute Tribe in Schurz, honored Englehart at his memorial by calling him “a champion of the Nevada tribes in Indian country.”

“I can’t say enough about this man,” Torres said. “His determination was inspiring, and his heart was with purpose. He had so a rich life evidenced by everyone.”

Torres had worked with Englehart on numerous projects, and he was the conduit between the tribal community and the senator’s office. She said he also worked closely with Nevada’s 28 tribes by forging new partnerships.

“He worked hard for us as he traveled those long, lonely stretches of roads in rural Nevada and got a feel of what the people had to endure in their way of life,” she recalled. 

Like others who knew Englehart, Torres said he attended meetings to hear every voice.

“Kurt earned the trust of many tribal leaders and tribal citizens in Nevada,” she added.

Torres’ voice grew quieter when speaking about Englehart’s 15-year-old son, Enders. She said Englehart showed pride in his son and worked diligently to accomplish his personal and professional goals.

“He also knew how to laugh, joke and make those around him feel comfortable and live life to the fullest,” she said.

Kurt’s brother Matthew Sheets delivered both the opening and closing remarks at the memorial. He said Englehart was relentless in achieving his goals.

“He pursued his ambitions with unwavering determination where it was a fascination with history or a philosophy or his dedication to work and politics,” Sheets said. “He did everything with a sense of purpose and integrity.”

“He always called me to say, ‘What do you guys need?’ And when we did, he got right on it.” Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Chairwoman Cathi Tuni

Sheets said Englehart’s son Enders was important, and nothing brought him more happiness than seeing him grow. Sheets said his brother cherished the many times he and his son spent together.

“Enders was the light of his life,” Sheets said. 

Longtime friend Kerry Durmick has known Englehart since 2012 in Ohio when they joined President Barack Obama’s campaign as organizers.

Her first thought when she met Kurt was, “’Who the heck is this guy?’”

“Then, in 2015, I lured Kurt over to Nevada with the promise of political excitement and, of course, my company. We teamed up to elect Sen. Cortez Masto and ended up working side by side in her northern Nevada official office,” she said. “I’m pretty sure Kurt consumed at least 150 pink drinks from Starbucks during those first few years … .”

Durmick said Englehart showed great determination and resolve and only wanted the best.

“He was more than just a colleague; he was family,” she said. “We brought out the best in each other. I liked to think I taught him tact, and he taught me to be impossibly myself.”

Durmick, who now lives in Las Vegas but attended the memorial service, said Englehart has been an incredible person and advocate for Nevada. She said he was the type of individual who would lend a hand to anyone.

“The thought of his absence leaves an indescribable void in my heart, but I take solace in the countless memories we shared and the unwavering care he showed not just to me but to everyone he crossed paths with,” she lamented.

Whether Englehart was traveling south of Reno to Carson City and Douglas County or east toward the Ruby Mountains, city and county leaders said they always enjoyed meeting with Englehart and discussing issues.

Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Chairwoman Cathi Tuni asked visitors at this year’s Earth Day celebration in Fallon to say a special prayer for Englehart. Tuni said Cortez Masto, Sen. Jacky Rosen and Englehart helped the tribe in any way they could. She said efforts have brought the tribe with grant funding that’s earmarked for a water treatment plant and much-needed repairs for the health clinic. 

“Kurt was a very good friend of ours,” Tuni said. “He attended a lot of the powwows. He always called me to say, ‘What do you guys need?’ And when we did, he got right on it.” 

Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford said he always wished he had more time to talk with Englehart.

“He was very sharp,” Tedford pointed out. “When I had lunch with the senator some months back, Kurt and my other staff met. My staff always had a good time.”

Tedford said Englehart’s rural Ohio background made him a good advocate for Cortez Masto’s outreach into Churchill County and its neighbors. The longtime mayor said Englehart was always well-versed with the issues and listened to the needs of Fallon’s residents.

“He was a solid guy,” Tedford said, who had always figured Englehart would be transferred to Washington, D.C., to work on Cortez Masto’s staff.

Churchill County Manager Jim Barbee and former Eureka County Commissioner Dr. J.J. Goicoechea have worked with Englehart in their respective counties and share similar thoughts on Englehart’s outreach.

“He was an advocate regardless of politics,” Barbee said. 

Usually, Barbee said a rural representative from a senator’s staff doesn’t have the background in rural issues, but he said Englehart was a natural because of his Ohio roots.

“Kurt could go anywhere in the rural because of his experience,” Barbee said. “He always had a smile and a handshake.”

Barbee said Englehart was a good representative for Cortez Masto during the coronavirus pandemic. Although he was directly involved with the county’s role in the Fallon Training Range Complex expansion, he was the “catch-all” person who would notify the senator’s office.

Goicoechea had experience as a county commissioner, the state veterinarian, and now, the Nevada Department of Agriculture director.

“Kurt was attentive and engaged to what we’re doing,” Goicoechea said.

Goicoechea said he enjoyed his visits with Englehart, as did his father, Pete Goicoechea, who was also a former Eureka commissioner, assemblyman and state senator.

Several fundraisers have been started for Kurt Englehart’s family to help with expenses and to serve as a college fund for his son Ender.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Matthew Sheets is Kurt’s brother.

Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson is Editor Emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News.

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