LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Based on your submissions, Nexstar, our parent company, has picked its top four choices of Nevada’s Remarkable Women.

We introduce you to Maggie Carlton, the longest-serving female legislator in our state.

“I grew up in the ‘Show-Me State,’ but I’m a Nevadan by choice, and that’s where my heart lies,” she said.

Carlton moved to the east part of Las Vegas in 1990. She secured a job as a coffee waitress in Treasure Island, where she took a big interest in the Culinary Union and politics.

“A lot of it had to do with being a working mom, who wanted to represent folks from the perspective of a working mom,” she shared. “We walked the Frontier picket line on Fridays; I took my daughters down there to walk the picket line.”

Carlton was chosen as an active member of the Culinary Union to introduce then-President Bill Clinton. It wasn’t long before the waitress with a high school diploma became the first labor activist to be elected to the Nevada State Senate.

“A couple of the more seasoned legislators back then tell the story they had no idea where this young waitress came from; they thought I was going to show up in a motorcycle jacket and stiletto heels,” she recounted. “They were just joking, but I was an unknown. I came out of nowhere.”

But this “unknown” at the time would later become the ultimate stereotype buster, representing “the little guy” across our state on very important matters.

“It was very nerve-racking because I had never done anything like that before,” Carlton said.

The major challenges for her came with balancing family life.

“If you stop to think of this, I’ve done this for 22 years, and they’re 34 and 35 now, so it’s been most of their lives,” she shared. “They’ve had a mom in the legislature, one of the biggest challenges, balancing that and making sure I was there for them as much as I could be.”

In 2011, Carlton was elected to the Nevada Assembly and became the longest-serving woman legislator in Nevada’s history. She has been chair of the Ways and Means committee since 2013.

One of her biggest accomplishments took 10 years of her life to complete: tackling “surprise hospital billing.”

“If you are out on a soccer field, and your daughter falls and breaks her arm or elbow, you don’t think about what hospital is in-network,” Carlton explained. “You take them to the closest hospital, walk in and get them treatment. A lot of times, surprise bill would come later.”

Now, hospitals and insurance companies negotiate on your behalf. It’s all about protecting the patients.

While those big issues are certainly important, Carlton finds the littler ones most satisfying.

“When someone calls because there is a street light, or your child needed a zone variance, an issue with a neighbor, the fact that you could reach out and help people do things for their everyday life, it’s really gratifying,” she said.

As for being nominated as a Remarkable Woman of Nevada, she had this to say:

“I was just so surprised.”

She was emotional about the letter submitted on her behalf, written by her husband.

“It was very important because sometimes, after 40 years of marriage, you don’t appreciate each other as much or share as much,” she said. “It’s important to know we’re there for each other. The fact that he took the time to do that means a lot.”

Carlton will continue her work as executive director of nonprofit ULAN, or United Labor Agency of Nevada. In 2022, after 24 years of public service, she says she will be termed out, and it will be tough to get politics out of her blood. She adds one good thing about term limits is that you are always getting new people, and she believes that’s a good thing for the State of Nevada, as it’s constantly changing.