By Marty Bachman
t 25 years old, Rusty Lewis is typical of most young people his age. He has a wife, a new baby (Ryder) and a job at the Robinson Mine as a driller and relief supervisor. What separates him from his peers though, is his desire to create a more thriving community for his son and family, and the action he’s taking to do that.
Lewis, through a convoluted process, has situated himself onto the November General Election ballot as an independent, non-partisan candidate for White Pine County Commission… and he’s determined to get elected.
“I don’t like to lose,” Lewis said, in an interview with the Times. “I love it here and I don’t plan on going anywhere else. I’ll be campaigning hard.”
Born and raised in Ely, Lewis was a state champion wrestler and star running back for the White Pine High School Bobcats. He’s since gone back to the school to help coach wrestling and help with the football team, as well. He’s also found time in his busy schedule to coach junior martial art classes, including Muy Tai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and he’s been training to be a mixed martial arts fighter, though he had to cancel his first fight that was scheduled in Elko, due to his coach breaking his nose while sparring just two days before the exhibition.
His wife, Amanda, is a nurse at the local hospital and is from Ely as well. They’ve known each other most of their lives and they’ve been together for the last three years — and it’s because of his family and their future, he decided to become a candidate.
“When I first decided to run,” he said, “we talked about it and she asked me ‘why? You have nothing to gain from doing this.’ I said, ‘that’s why.’ A lot of people have ulterior motives, I benefit nothing from this. I chose to do this just to help out.”
Lewis first filed at the county offices as a Republican but was told after filing that he had been removed from the voter rolls due to his having moved and the county clerk’s office being unable to find him. Because he was not registered as a Republican by the beginning of the year deadline, he could not run as a Republican. They gave him three options: 1) To un-file and get his money back and run again in the next election the commission seat came up; 2) Stay registered as a Republican and hope the filing was never challenged; or 3) File as an independent, non partisan and get a petition signed by 100 registered voters.
“I would have been challenged fast,” he said about attempting to run as a Republican, noting that word of his dilemma had been leaked from the clerk’s office already. “I wasn’t going to wait and file again — so while the others were out campaigning, I had to put in three times the work just to get on the ballot.”
Lewis, like he has always done, put in the work, got the signatures and is now on the ballot.
“My big thing is the future,” Lewis said. “I want my son to grow up in the same kind of community I did. I want this place to still be here. I want this place to still be afloat when my kids get into school.”
Lewis said that he’s gotten quite the education since making the decision to run. He has gone to every meeting imaginable to learn about how government works, including county commission meetings, fire commission and city council meetings.
I guarantee, by the time election comes, I’ll have hit every meeting in the county,” he said.
He said that he’s learned a lot about the political process and he feels that the ideas from a younger representative, such as himself, could provide new thinking to the county commission. He said that while attending budget meetings, he was concerned about the county’s overspending for five years running and he questioned why there was only talk about making cuts rather than finding new revenue for the county.
“If you’re overspending your budget, you’re not looking too far ahead,” he said. “Instead of cutting, there are definitely more things we can do to bring money into the county.”
Lewis said that for a time when he was employed as a driller in Elko, every weekend there was an event being held there, including a wine walk and rodeos. He said that there were many events that could be held in White Pine County, including trap shooting and fishing derbies, that would bring traffic and money into the community.
Lewis said that as a county commissioner, he wanted to be more involved, not just with government business, but with community organizations and events, and that he hoped to be a regular sight at county functions; someone approachable that people could share their struggles with.
“Until I decided to run, I had never met a county commissioner,” he said.
Lewis said he was Republican born and raised and came from a long lineage of Republicans, including his mother and father. He said that since he was forced to run as an independent though, he was happy with how that turned out. Despite his loyalty to the party though, at a recent meeting of the Ely Republican Club where all the Republican candidates for county commission that attended were allowed to give a five minute speech concerning their platform, Lewis’ request for an equal opportunity to explain his position was totally ignored.
“George Washington said that the downfall of this country will be political parties,” Lewis said.
He said that it wasn’t race or religion that were dividing the country, it was political parties, and he again emphasized that he was happy to run as an independent.
“I’m a reasonable person,” Lewis said. “If you tell me your belief and it makes sense, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, if you have valid reason and fact to support your argument, chances are I’m going to believe you.”