Dina Titus Congresswoman, Writer & Educator Rep. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, was born Alice Costandina Titus in Thomasville, Ga., on May 23, 1950. She evokes the girl next door — the neighbor who might bring you a cup of sugar before you even ask. Her sincerity is refreshing, especially for a politician. With a doctorate in political science, she is foremost a scholar, with a fervor for teaching and championing those without a voice. As a UNLV professor for 34 years, she taught American and Nevada government until her retirement in June 2011. She represented Senate District 7 in the Nevada Legislature for 20 years, and was minority leader from 1993-2008. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District in November 2008, and for the next two years was her party’s whip for the Western states. This past January she was elected to represent the 1st Congressional District. Titus has written two books and numerous articles on American, Nevada and atomic politics. She and UNLV Latin American political history professor Thomas Wright have been married more than 30 years. DAVID: How did your journey into academia and politics begin? TITUS: On my father’s side, my great-greatgrandfather served in the U.S. Congress and in the Georgia state Senate in the late 1800s. My uncle served in the Georgia Legislature, and my father ran for a City Council seat, though he didn’t win. On my mother’s side, all the local politicos gathered at my Papu’s restaurant to debate current issues. It somehow seeped into my blood. DAVID: How did you pursue those early influences? TITUS: During high school I went to a summer program at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. After that they admitted me as a full-time student in the fall, without a high school diploma. I was learning in the heartland of American democracy at a time of great change in our country. We were in the midst of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. I think all of that inspired me to enter into the conversation, so I decided to major in political science. Soon after completing my Ph.D at Florida State University, I accepted an offer to teach at UNLV. DAVID: What brought you to public service? TITUS: Initially, I was approached to run. Making a difference was important to me,
and at the time I was an activist in women’s Democratic clubs. I’ve long been an advocate for women, the arts, education, children, seniors, the disabled, animals — those who don’t have the money to hire advocates to have their voices heard. Teaching certainly gave me a voice. DAVID: Is there an achievement in particular you’re most proud of? TITUS: Probably the opening of the Dina Titus Estates in 2006. I fought hard for that. It’s an … affordable housing complex in Las Vegas for those with disabilities. DAVID: What are your committee assignments in Washington? TITUS: The veterans committee, which is important because of the numbers of veterans we have in Nevada between our retired population and Nellis. And the transportation and infrastructure committee, which is critical for Nevada because of our dependency on tourism for a thriving economy. We have to work on ways to make it easier for people to come here: improving the airport, the interstate to Phoenix; the super speed train to Southern California. DAVID: What are your views on the president’s expanded use of his authority? TITUS: Well, I think it’s disturbing. More and more of those checks and balances have been lost. But I think some of the president’s actions have been out of frustration, because you can’t get anything out of the Congress. DAVID: You have always been a supporter for the State of Israel. TITUS: AIPAC’s educational group took Tom and (me) to Israel, our first time, in 2009. It was just incredible. In Washington, I’m a founding member of the Greek/Israeli caucus. I see the two countries as part of the same geopolitics in a difficult region. DAVID: What do you want your constituents to know about you? TITUS: I value telling the truth, hard work, and that my office has an open-door policy. We welcome all in our district to share what affects their lives. And I love the diversity. We’ve got the Asian westside, Hispanic eastside, arts district, downtown, Strip, airport, university. This is where it’s happening. We’re striving to have an office that reflects all of those interests and brings the people together. It’s a challenge, but an exciting one.
58 DAVID ADAR / NISAN 5773
2/20/13 10:42 AM