By Mary Branham
John Oceguera ran for the Nevada Assembly for two reasons: His family has always been involved in small-town politics and he thought he could make a difference.
“They raised me to always give back,” Oceguera, 42, said of his parents. “I had that ingrained in me from a young age.”
He gives back to his community of North Las Vegas in a big way. In addition to representing the area in the Assembly, Oceguera has been a firefighter for 22 years. Prior to joining the North Las Vegas fire department, Oceguera served as a firefighter at the Naval Air Station in Nevada.
Since being elected to the Assembly in 2000, Oceguera has had to balance the job of being a firefighter with serving in the Assembly. The on-and-off schedule of a firefighter made things a little easier to make his role as a part-time legislator work.
But things are a little more hectic now. Oceguera is a battalion chief for the North Las Vegas Fire Department and the new Speaker of the Assembly.
“It’s made for 100 hour work weeks,” he told Capitol Ideas.
Things are likely to get tougher. The current legislative session, which began the first week in February, is very budget-driven.
“I’m going to be particularly involved in jobs, jobs, jobs, and the economy and how we get our state back on track,” Oceguera said.
Nevada has been hit hard by the economic crisis. Oceguera said his state has a 50 percent revenue deficit. “We’re in pretty bad shape,” he said.
His immediate goals upon taking the reigns of the state assembly were to address one of the biggest changes he’s seen over the years—the Washington-style partisanship that has crept into state legislatures more and more.
“I think the public wants us to work together,” he said. “I think they don’t want us to bicker and fight. They want solutions.”
On that issue, he’ll take heed to the best advice he’s received: “Consensus is found in the middle. It’s not found on the extremes,” Oceguera said. “If you can work toward the middle and work toward compromise, you’re probably going to have a successful career.”
Nevada is a term-limited state and has a lot of new members in its current session. He’d offer the new members the same advice he was given.
“Listen more and talk less,” he said. “There’s a steep learning curve in the legislature and you’re probably better served by listening more and speaking less.”
As for term limits, Oceguera would argue that every state has term limits. “It’s called voting,” he said. Just look at what happened across the country, he said. “People were not happy with the current situation and they voted out a lot of folks.”
Oceguera also wants to work in the current session to make government more efficient and look to the long-term. “Too often, state governments don’t look further ahead than the next session,” he said. “We have to have a plan that looks further in the future.”
The future is important to the fifth-generation Nevadan. And he’s proud of the state’s citizen legislature. “There are people from all walks of life—teachers, firefighters, bankers, lawyers,” said Oceguera, who holds both a master’s degree and law degree from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
With a busy session and his job as a battalion chief, Oceguera doesn’t have a lot of free time. But he and his family do enjoy the outdoors. He and his wife, Janie, have a 1-year-old son, Jackson.