I-Team: Former Gov. Miller Tells Life Story in Book - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Former Gov. Miller Tells Life Story in Book

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FILE: Bob Miller became governor of Nevada in 1989. FILE: Bob Miller became governor of Nevada in 1989.
I-Team reporter Colleen McCarty interviews former Governor Bob Miller. I-Team reporter Colleen McCarty interviews former Governor Bob Miller.

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada's longest serving governor has put his life story into print. Gov. Bob Miller's autobiography, "Son of a Gambling Man," is on bookshelves now. It's more than just a memoir, it's also the story of Las Vegas.

Miller's family began in Las Vegas as many of the early gaming pioneers did. His father, Ross Miller, once an illegal bookmaker, came to the city of second chances to ply his trade legally.

While his father's shadow, at times, proved challenging, Bob Miller stepped beyond it to leave his own lasting legacy.

In 1991, with his wife Sandy on his arm, Miller danced into his first elected term as Nevada's governor. Appointed two years earlier, when then Gov. Richard Bryan was elected to the U.S. Senate, Miller assumed office, unafraid to step on a few toes.

"I raised taxes despite the advice of my political advisors who said 'You haven't been elected and you're going to raise some taxes for something? You'll never get elected.'" Miller said. "But I think if you tell people why you're doing something and it's a good cause, they're receptive and I think that's what happened."

Miller raised taxes to reduce class sizes in the first and second grades at a time when southern Nevada schools were bursting at the seams. Call it fearlessness or naivete, to Miller it was simply the right thing to do. It was a gut check that served him throughout his political career.

His rise to the state's highest office began in law enforcement as a two-term district attorney in Clark County.

"Being a district attorney was also something I enjoyed," he said. "Being the guy with the white hat trying to put criminals away, making a difference in crime victims' lives."

Among his notable prosecutions were several members of mob enforcer Tony "The Ant" Spilotro's Hole in the Wall gang. They were a group of street thugs who committed burglaries by cutting a hole in the wall.

"We worked with the feds and were able to turn some of them, which lead to a lot of changes," Miller said. "Spilotro himself ended up being murdered and it changed the organized crime influence in Las Vegas for the better."

The very influence that dogged Miller throughout his career was his father, who moved his family from Chicago to Las Vegas to begin a legitimate career in gaming at the Riviera casino. Yet the senior Miller's success was due in part to his ties to organized crime, an issue that colored all of his son's campaigns.

"When I was running for DA and one of my opponents was attacking my mother -- my father had passed away by then -- my mother was a very nice, sweet woman who went to Mass everyday, did volunteer work and she'd inherited half of the Slots-a-Fun casino," Miller said. "So he mischaracterized her as a gambler and a person I couldn't associate with. It was so absurd that it was really kind of gut-wrenching at the time."

While public office proved a personal challenge at times, it also afforded Miller access to celebrities and the political elite. Today as a private person, Miller remains active in the community and continues to shape the history of Las Vegas.

"My wife and I feel very strongly that we're just two individuals who are grateful for what we have and we want to participate in trying to make things better for everyone else," he said.

The governor's son, Ross Miller, serves as Nevada's secretary of state carrying on his father's legacy of public service.

Gov. Miller has a book signing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Rainbow Boulevard.

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