Nev. Dignitaries Honor Tourism Pioneer

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RENO, Nev. -- A former tour operator and travel consultant was honored by a blue-chip panel for her role in helping to formulate Nevada's tourism policies.

Jean Ford, who has, by her own admission, "moved in and out of the tourism business" during her life, was feted at a special luncheon during the recent Nevada Governor's Conference on Tourism. She is credited widely with having played a leading role in drafting the legislation that led to the establishment, in 1983, of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, the constitution of which is virtually unchanged today.

Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan; Gov. Bob Miller, and a blue chip panel that included two Nevada Supreme Court justices and the leaders of the state senate and assembly paid tribute to the northern Nevada native, now 67 and in ill health.

Ford's record of public service was hailed by all of the speakers. Phrases such as "innovative legislator," "women's rights pioneer," and "driving force in Nevada for three decades" were widely used in summing up her accomplishments.

She has been one of the most influential women in Nevada since her election to the state assembly in the early 1970s and to the senate a few years later. After losing a reelection bid, she went to work for then-state senator Bryan in his successful campaign for governor. At that time, she had her first hands-on contact with the visitor industry: The travel-arranging aspects of the campaign led her to set up a company (Nevada Discovery Tours) organizing spouse programs for convention groups.

As a special consultant to Bryan -- who by then had become governor -- she helped write the legislation that created the tourism commission and was named a commissioner for a two-year term. In 1985, with her term completed, she moved to the state capital, Carson City, to become director of community services in the Bryan administration; later, under Miller, she organized and escorted familiarization tours of the state for members of the National Tour Association.

In recent years, she taught a class at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas on Women on the Frontier and became the chair of the Nevada Women's History Project, a statewide program to highlight the role of women in the development of the Silver State.

Of the growth of tourism in Nevada and the success of the commission that she helped establish, Ford said, "It's really been an educational job. What I wanted to do was promote not just the casinos but cultural tourism -- to rural Nevada, to the historic sites and natural attractions. Some people just didn't understand that, even some of those who stood to benefit from that approach."

Although not directly involved with the Commission on Tourism for several years, Ford always has been available to advise, according to Tom Tait, the group's executive director. "Jean Ford," Tait said, "is a remarkable woman."

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