Nevada State Profile   Governor Kenny C. Guinn


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October 24, 2006 - Mining Key Industry for Nevada


   Governor Kenny C. Guinn
  Governor Kenny C. Guinn
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  First Lady Dema Guinn
 First Lady Dema Guinn
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Kenny C. Guinn, 69, was first elected Governor of Nevada in 1998.  He was re-elected in 2002, capturing 68% of the vote, one of the widest margins of victory in a gubernatorial race in the state’s history.  By Nevada law, he is term-limited and will leave office in January 2007. 

Born in Arkansas, Guinn and his family moved to the small Central Valley community of Exeter, California at an early age.  The son of migrant farm workers, Guinn was encouraged and prompted by his parents to get a good education.  Helped along by many encouraging teachers and coaches, Guinn took this advice to heart and worked to prepare himself for the possibility of attending college.  

Kenny & DemaAnother thing he took to heart in high school was his wife of now 49 years, Dema.   Kenny and Dema began dating in high school, got married while he was in college, and have been together ever since.   

While attending Exeter High School, Guinn excelled at several sports: football, basketball, track, and swimming.  He was good enough in the decathlon—a test of ten various track events—that he made it to the California AAU Championships his junior year.  The young man he lost to, Rafer Johnson, went on to win the Gold Medal in the decathlon in the 1960 Rome Olympics. 

Although he enjoyed all sports, football was his love and Guinn also realized it was his best ticket to earn a college scholarship.  In his senior year, a scout from the University of Southern California (USC) attended a game to check out the young running back.   That day, Guinn ran for 280 yards and scored five touchdowns. USC soon came calling and offered Guinn a scholarship to the prestigious university.   

His parents’ dream would soon be fulfilled; their son, Kenny, would be the first in their family to attend college. 

After being told by legendary USC football coach Jess Hill that he would have to focus on football and give up basketball, Guinn decided to transfer back home to Fresno City College and later to Fresno State University, where he was named senior back of the year in 1958. 

Guinn earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Physical Education from Fresno State University. He later obtained a doctorate in Education from Utah State University. 

Upon graduation and after four years of teaching in high school, the family Guinn—Kenny, Dema and their first son, Jeff—moved to Las Vegas where Guinn went from central office administration to Clark County School District Superintendent in just five years.  During that time, the couple’s second son, Steve, was born. 

In 1978, Guinn began applying his management skills in the private sector as Administrative Vice President for Nevada Savings and Loan, which later became PriMerit Bank.   Once again, he quickly advanced through the management ranks and, in 1987, was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors. 

His success did not go unnoticed in the business community.  In 1988, Southwest Gas Corporation made Guinn an offer he couldn’t refuse: President of the giant company.  His involvement with the Southwest Gas culminated with him being named Chairman of the Board in 1993. 

Education had played a prominent role in Guinn’s life, providing him opportunities and opening doors that he had never imagined as a young boy growing up poor.  So when the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) sought his assistance in righting the university, Guinn accepted the position.  However, he refused to take the salary, except for one dollar; the rest was donated to UNLV’s scholarship program and other activities.  Guinn instituted administrative and policy changes that helped the university regain its momentum as an ever-expanding urban college. 

The Governor and First Lady continue to volunteer their time and effort on behalf of countless organization, commissions, and charities, something that has always played an important role in their professional lives. 

The Guinns reside in Carson City at the Governor’s Mansion and have another home in Las Vegas.  They are in the process of building a second home in northern Nevada.  Besides their sons, the Guinns have two daughters-in-law and six grandchildren.

Guinn Family



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