Richard “Tick” Segerblom is something of an anomaly in politics. In an age when a politician’s every word and nuance is scrutinized, Segerblom is unapologetically honest. On a recent fact-finding trip to an Arizona marijuana dispensary, Segerblom was quoted as saying, “I’ve never seen bud that good,” adding later when asked about his knowledge of weed: “Not too much recently.” Segerblom took a few minutes out of budget sessions to talk about his political path, honesty and how he came to be known as Tick.
You served in the Assembly first and were elected to the state Senate last year. Seeing as how your great-grandfather, grandmother and mother all served in either the Assembly or state Senate, did you feel the need to continue the family legacy? Absolutely. As you know, the State Legislature is not exactly a prestigious position, but as a fourth-generation legislator, I feel somewhat of an obligation to enhance this institution.
Did your mother or anyone else in the family give you advice? No, it was actually the other way around. My mother was a high school government teacher, and so from the day I can remember, we were always talking politics at home. And of course, she was raised in a political family. But she never really said do this or that. In fact, I was the one who encouraged her to run for the Legislature when I was head of the Democratic Party for Nevada. I was a state chairman and my father had just died, and she was looking for something to do. I said, “Why don’t you run for state Assembly?” And shortly after she won, she became the important one and I was like a nobody.
How did you first get into politics? Like most people who grew up in the 1960s, I think just the whole Vietnam War really inspired me. ... I worked in a campaign in Colorado where I was going to law school, and then I went to Washington, D.C., in 1975 and the presidential election was just heating up. I looked at all the candidates—this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work for a presidential candidate—and I picked this guy named Jimmy Carter who was a nobody who I really liked. He ended up taking off, and I was close enough to the top that I went with him. So I ended up actually working at the White House for about six months after he was elected.
It took you quite awhile to actually run for office. I went in reverse. I started at the White House, then I went to state chairman of the Democratic Party. I’ve had three political careers essentially: Carter campaign, the Democratic Party from 1990 to 1994, essentially—I helped Clinton win Nevada—and then my mother was elected, so I kind of let her take the lead, and I kind of just focused on my family and occupation.
Was the Assembly your first race? I actually ran for the school board in 1994, and I lost. ... The funny thing is, when I ran for the school board, I ran as Richard, which is my legal name and the name I use as a lawyer. But when I lost, everyone said, “We didn’t know who you were. We all know you as Tick.” So when I ran for Assembly, I ran as Tick, and I’ve been winning ever since. And I have to say, people love that name.
Where did it come from? It’s a nickname I got when I was a kid. I hiccupped and my sister called me “Hicky,” and it ended up being “Ticky,” and I’m from Boulder City, so I never really got away from it. When I graduated from high school I was Tick, and when I came back from law school, everybody I knew called me Tick, so it just kind of stuck. I was always embarrassed of it because it’s a little insect. But anyway, people love it. In the state Senate I’m Tick. I don’t even use Richard.
Your comment about marijuana was so refreshing to hear, coming from a politician. What’s been the feedback on that? No one’s been negative about it.
Where does your blunt honesty come from? Let me give you my basic philosophy: I’m almost 65 years old. I’ve done it all as far as politics. I’ve seen politicians who did it for a living, who needed it, whatever. I’m just having the time of my life. I feel like I can say what I want to say. ... I have the luxury to just be one of those politicians who just does what they feel like doing and supports what they want to support. If you like gay rights, if you like marijuana, I can do that. It’s the ultimate luxury to be a politician in my position.
Sounds great. Oh, I think it is. It’s fantastic.
It’s unfortunate more politicans aren’t that way. Absolutely! I mean, people monitor every word you say and then tell you, “Oh, you said the wrong word,” or, “This is a killer. Do this.” This is what Oscar Goodman taught me: If you have a personality, they may not agree with you, but at least they think you’re telling the truth. You’re a straight shooter, and they will forgive the fact that they don’t agree with you on every issue.