As we march into the second Tuesday of November, Donna Prishmonte is a fitting choice for this month’s Tahoe Stories. Teresa May Duggan, last month’s interviewee, led me to Donna, a retired flight attendant. Although she may no longer be on anyone’s payroll, Donna works more hours than a lot of us as a lead organizer for the Democratic Party of Washoe County. An active volunteer with the Wylie Animal Rescue Foundation and avid skier, Donna’s longevity in the Tahoe community inspired me to imagine my golden years in Tahoe. I drove through a gamut of campaign signs for the opposing party to meet Donna at her home in Incline Village, where she has lived for 42 years.
You were raised in Los Angeles and began flying for TWA when you were 20 years old. How did Tahoe become your home?
I was living in the Bay Area and flying out of San Francisco. I took a vacation with my roommate to learn how to ski. I enjoyed it so much; I had so much fun! I spent so much time up here skiing and hardly any time in my place in San Francisco, so I decided to just move up here.
With you leading the charge, Incline Village (along with the rest of Washoe County) went “blue” in the 2008 presidential election. How did you become involved with the Washoe Dems?
It was an amazing election, and I think it was absolutely one of a kind. I started becoming political when I started flying. I was around a lot of Republicans, so I just kind of assumed I was Republican. In the 1980s, Reagan started firing air traffic controllers and opened the doors for the corporate raiders to come in and basically break unions. I got involved in that with TWA, and it was a real eye opener. Ever since then I have been a Democrat, and I’m getting more liberal the older I get.
It must be difficult to be a Democrat in a predominantly Republican area. Where do you get the confidence needed to campaign?
I’m a volunteer organizer. I don’t get paid, and I put in long hours. But, it’s for a purpose, and it’s very important. You do 23 years of flying and your face is in the public all the time. You talk with people from Princess Grace of Monaco down to the little kid traveling by himself and you get used to the fact that people are people. It’s kind of funny. When I knock on Republican doors I say, “Hi! I’m Donna Prishmonte, Incline Democrat!” and they almost start laughing. I’ve had great conversations with Republicans, and we can agree to disagree and be civil about it.
What issues are you most passionate about?
In 2008, specifically my issue was health care reform. I have lived on private market insurance, because I retired quite early. I just went on Medicare and Social Security the year before last, and I’m so thankful. Why I’m out here this time is to make sure future generations have what I have. That’s all it comes down to. I remember distinctly when I was 30 years old saying to my [late] husband, “That’s not going to be there for us.” But because someone worked for it, it’s there for me now. Also, this year my issue is women’s rights and the Supreme Court. I don’t even like to think about [if Obama isn’t reelected]. Everyone has worked so hard, and it can be gone in an instant.
How have you seen Tahoe change in your four decades as a resident of Incline Village?
I really don’t see a lot of change. The one thing that’s a little bit sad for me is I’ve seen Lake Shore Boulevard get walled up. The houses on the lake have these giant walls and giant gates.
If you drive down Lake Shore you’ll see some little houses like the [Lloyd] Bridges property. It’s a gray house just sitting down there. There are no fences; it’s wonderful. You can still look down to the lake.
Any last words before Nov. 2?
We could not have done what we did here during the 2008 election without California. Residents of Donner Lake, Truckee, and the North Shore were all coming over here to help. People flooded in from UC Davis, Stanford, Santa Cruz. It was just terrific. We’re real neighbors. There’s no border here.
Sadly, this will be the last installment of Tahoe Stories by Sara David. We bid her the best of luck with her new job. We will miss her entertaining and enlightening interviews. Look for Tahoe Stories to continue in our print edition after the new year.