Jill Derby joins congressional race | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Jill Derby joins congressional race

Susie Vasquez

Belinda Grant / Tribune News Service / Jill Derby is seen with her husband, Steve Talbot.

GARDNERVILLE – University regent and Carson Valley resident Jill Derby announced her candidacy Monday for the District 2 congressional seat being vacated by Jim Gibbons.

Derby, a Democrat, said she’s looking forward to the challenges of this campaign for the seat, which since its creation in 1981 has never been held by a member of her party.

“We need a strong, independent voice in Congress,” she said. “That’s the approach I’ll take. I see this as an opportunity to expand my focus, to address other issues important to Nevadans.”

Derby has been a regent for the University of Nevada system for 17 years, a nonpartisan elective office that she said has given her a perspective beyond party affiliation.

Education is her passion, she said.

“We have to make sure the educational opportunities are available, but more is needed,” Derby said. “We need economic opportunities and good jobs. We’re living with a lot of economic uncertainties.”

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One of those uncertainties is health care, Derby said.

“It’s hard to find anyone who thinks the health care system is working well, from the patients to the physicians,” she said. “Forty-five million people don’t have health insurance. Those who do are struggling to pay the ever-increasing premiums.”

The war in Iraq poses another uncertainty. The loss of lives and resources, together with the feeling things are not going well, have done much to fuel frustration for her as it has for so many Americans, Derby said.

“I’m frustrated that we don’t seem to have a clear plan on how to succeed, or how to get out,” she said. “But it’s important that we support our people, with the equipment and manpower they need to be successful and safe.”

Derby said there was a real incompetence in the response with respect to the loss of life following the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.

“The primary goal of government is protecting its citizens. We failed,” she said. “We need to take a hard look at this tragedy and figure out what went wrong.”

The second congressional district spans Washoe County, all the rural counties and portions of Clark County with a nearly 47,000-voter Republican majority.

However, Derby said her deep Nevada roots will help counteract the Republican advantage. Her grandfather, Charles Derby, was a mining supervisor in Virginia City.

“My father went to the Fourth Ward School,” she said.

Her grandfather purchased land in Lovelock at the turn of the century and her father raised cattle and crops there during the depression. Derby was born there.

As a child, she often dreamed of exploring far away lands. She used her first career as a dental hygienist as a means to that end.

She became a health educator and training coordinator for the Arabian American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia. During that period, she trekked the Himalayas and crossed the Cambodian border to witness the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, hidden deep in the jungle.

Inspired by the cultural experience, Derby returned to the United States to study anthropology at both the University of Nevada and University of California, Davis, where she earned her doctorate in 1988.

Derby, 65, has been married to Steve Talbot, a Carson Valley veterinarian, for 33 years. Together they have two children. Son Ryan is 28 and daughter Tobyn is 23.