Mike Haley on the record

Photo By Dennis Myers

After serving in patrol, detention, and detectives in the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Mike Haley was elected to the top job in 2006 and has announced his candidacy to run for reelection next year.

Give me the 10-sentence Mike Haley biography.

Biography? Born in 1952. Have 10 brothers and sisters. Catholic family—I knew you’d ask. Went in the military in 1970 [when I] graduated from high school. Served for three years on active duty. Right after leaving the military, I went to college, graduated with honors from Northeast Missouri State University. I went back in the military on reserve status, got out in 1992 as a first sergeant for a battalion. Started work here in 1980 as a deputy sheriff. Served in every occupation here, every rank, every division. Appointed to assistant sheriff, then to undersheriff and was elected in 2006 and took office in 2007. In November this year, Nov. 17, have 30 years with the sheriff’s office. And looking for a next term, running for office one more time.

Are there problems of law enforcement that are peculiar to Nevada?

Twenty-four hour town. A population that keeps shifting. Although not in Washoe County, but in adjoining counties, legalized prostitution. Because of our taxing structure in this state, we seem to be boom and bust, and it creates challenges for law enforcement because there’s not a consistent funding stream. We have an industry that hires folks to work here that are usually low-paying jobs or at least entry level-paying jobs. It puts a huge burden on our social services network, subsequently on our law enforcement network. Good people in bad circumstances generally engage law enforcement. We have an extreme challenge with both illegal and legal drugs, prescription drugs. Have a very high suicide rate. In fact, it’s first in the nation in most cases. So yes, we do. Law enforcement is unique here. We get five million visitors or more a year, and our officers per thousand generally are consistent with areas that don’t have 24-hour towns. So we have about a 1.2 officer per thousand. We should be closer to two.

I’ve had a theory that because of our state’s reputation as a sort of outlaw state, we attract people here that most other states don’t. Sort of the people who like to believe that rules don’t apply, that we’re free swinging out here, sort of a Claude Dallas syndrome. Any support for that?

Oh, tremendous support for it. If you look back on our legislative history, we actually tried to attract people here, through the legislative process, that had a lot of money and they would be able to operate here with very little control, very little taxing, and we reached out around the country to draw folks here that were independent, that didn’t like a lot of government, didn’t like a lot of taxation. And I think at the time it might have been good to draw people to the state of Nevada, but that kind of attitude I think has permeated through our entire structure. And we still operate in many cases in the fashion that we care about a certain socio-economical stratum and the consequential economic stratum is still consequential. It’s just not something that we spend a lot of money on—education, social networks, social steps, medical. You know, our high rates of mental-health challenges here. There’s a group of people here that aren’t generally being tended to in a way that maybe some other states do.

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Dennis Myers
About Dennis Myers 1397 Articles
Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely Nevada, a children’s history textbook, and a contributor to the books The Mythical West and Covering the Courts in Nevada.