2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Unicameral, District 5

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Mike McDonnell (D):
Website: www.votemcdonnell.com
Occupation:  President of the Omaha Federation of Labor AFL-CIO
Current Public Office, dates held: Nebraska State Senator Legislative Dist. 5 January 2017-Present
Past Public Office, dates held: Nebraska State Senator Legislative Dist. 5, January 2017-Present
Education: Masters in Public Administration Bachelors in Criminal Justice Associate Degree in Fire Protection Technology
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Knights of Columbus Council 10184 Saint Thomas More Festival Committee

Gilbert Ayala (R):  No response received.

Candidate Responses

Does Nebraska need to change its method of redistricting? Why or why not?

Mike McDonnell: Yes! I would like to adopt a more nonpartisan approach similar to what the State of Iowa has done. We could use a nonpartisan state agency and an outside advisory commission to draw the districts.

How should the problem of prison overcrowding be handled?

Mike McDonnell: Reducing recidivism will reduce overcrowding. I introduced 2 bills this year that will help accomplish this. LB

1096 will be a private public partnership to teach skilled trade classes, to people within 18 months of being released from prison. LB 1097 will double the size of the current young adult court, which is a problem solving court. This court works with people age 18-26 to help with employment and addressing other issues to keep them out of the Nebraska prison system.

Do you feel there is a need for voter ID, if so why and how should it be implemented?

Mike McDonnell: No!

Should there be increased restrictions on money in politics? Why or why not and what specific restrictions would you support?

Mike McDonnell: Yes! I believe there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on political campaigns. Based on not letting an individual or organization have more political influence.

Does Nebraska need a paid family medical leave program? Why or why not?

Mike McDonnell: Yes! I believe Nebraska workers should receive paid leave to deal with their own serious health conditions, and mothers should receive paid maternity leave following the birth or adoption of a child.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha, Subdivision 4

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Tim Cavanaugh (R):
Occupation: Chief Deputy Treasurer/Retired Omaha Police Captain (25+ years)
Current Public Office, dates held: MUD Board of Directors, 1999-now. Three-time Chairman.
Past Public Office, dates held: above
Education: Ryan High School UNO, C.J/Business Administration Creighton Law School, 1979-80 University of Nebraska Graduate School, MS, C.J./Public Admin Graduate, FBI National Academy
Military Experience: Regretfully, none.
Volunteer Experience: Rotary Club of Omaha, 17 years, past president and Rotary Foundation Board. Paul Harris Fellow, 3 times.

Tom Wurtz (NP):
Occupation: Retired past President MUD
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: BA UNL 1971. Juris Doctorate UNL 1974.
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Knights of Columbus St. Wenceslaus Church. Challenger Alumni Softball (coach) President’s Advisory Council UNL. Catholic Charities Board of Directors. Urban League Board of Directors. Governor’s Water Policy Council. State Energy Policy Council.

Candidate Responses

What factors would you consider when determining rates and rate changes?

Tim Cavanaugh: Number 1 is the abilty for our ratepayer-owners to afford our services. Safety is a major concern, as well as the delivery of clean water and safe gas transmission.

Tom Wurtz: The first duty of a board member is to ensure the district has sufficient revenues to deliver water and natural gas safely to our customers with reasonable rates. I would consider all customer classifications (residential, commercial and manufacturing) to determine if all are treated fairly. We need to retain competent managers and employees, who have an understanding of the complexities involved in the delivery of gas and water to the public. I would also consider the level of customer service.

What are the opportunities to improve efficiency for MUD?

Tim Cavanaugh: I challenged the staff to work toward a two-hour appointment window for service when we implemented GPS on service trucks which allowed for more efficient deployment of service trucks. Also, I pressed for the implementation of online payments. I am very proud of our high bond rating and the high level of funding of the employee’s pension fund.

Tom Wurtz: The most important opportunity for efficiency is to ensure that the district remains a public utility with local control and ownership by our customers. Privatization would result in an immediate 25% increase in rates. More of our construction and field service personnel should report directly to job sites rather than district facilities in order to increase efficiency. Also the district should conduct a study to search for duplication of functions and continue discounted natural gas purchases.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Tim Cavanaugh: Ramp up the progress toward water infrastructure replacement within an affordable rate structure.

Tom Wurtz: I will make all committee meetings open to the public. I will solve the water pressure problems in west Omaha, particularly in sub district 4. We need to provide better customer service for our customer owners. We need a comprehensive study of our rate structure to make sure we have an appropriate balance between monthly service charges and commodity costs. We need to conduct a comprehensive study of safety and security programs with emphasis on cyber security.

What effort would you make to meet the goal of increasing the use of renewable energy?

Tim Cavanaugh: MUD delivers natural gas and water. The exploration of methane gas sources (garbage dumpsites) may be worthwhile.

Tom Wurtz: Although natural gas is not technically a renewable fuel source, it is 98% clean burning and better for the environment than other fuels. I will continue to encourage the utilization of natural gas and CNG in cars and trucks. This will reduce our carbon footprint. As past president of MUD, I instituted a program to convert the electrical power source for our regulator stations to solar energy. I would explore the possibilities of converting as much of the electrical usage to solar power.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Douglas County Commissioner, District 1

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Mike Boyle (D):
Website: www.mikeboyle.org
Occupation: Lawyer.
Current Public Office, dates held: County Commissioner
Past Public Office, dates held: Mayor of Omaha
Education: St. Cecilia’s Cathedral High School U.N.O.1963 -1964 Creighton University 1962 – 1973 Creighton University Law School 1974 – 1977
Military Experience: Sole Surviving Son, Gold Star Brother
Volunteer Experience: American Red Cross, Combined Health Agency Drive, Urban League 1963,Holy Name Housing Board 1980 – 2006, Citizens for Educational Freedom, Co-Founder, Omaha 100

Roger Garcia (D):

Website: www.garcia2020.com
Occupation: Nonprofit Executive Director
Current Public Office, dates held: Metro Community College, Board of Governors, 2 terms, 2013 – 2016 and 2017 – 2020
Education: Bachelors in Psychology and Latino/Latin American Studies at UNO – Masters in Public Administration at Bellevue University – Masters in Theological Studies at Iliff School of Theology – Doctorate in Ministry at Willamette University (in Progress)
Volunteer Experience: Co-coordinator for the Nonprofit Executive Institute – Former board member of the Immigrant Legal Center – Former board member of the Women’s Center for Advancement – Former Big Brother/Big Sisters mentor (5 years) – Open Door Mission dinner server

Tonya Ward (D): No response received.

Candidate Responses

What element of the county’s government is most effective, and why?

Mike Boyle: There are many effective operations of County Government. The Douglas County Health Department under the leadership of Adi Pour,Ph.d stands out.. She and her staff are performing, so well. They are disseminating solid, accurate information and coordinating their work with all branches of our Government. Elected Officials, and Department leaders are serving us well, Our dedicated employees make us proud, We serve the Citizens of Douglas County. We are proud to serve.

Roger Garcia:  The Treasurer’s office in recent years has been operating within their budget, has added online and additional payment options for local residents, and successfully passed a bond through a public vote.  Specifically, a few years back, the Treasurer’s office did not accept debit or credit cards and now they do.  This is an example of a County office listening to local residents and adding options that made things easier for taxpayers. County Treasurer John Ewing has been transparent & accessible.

What are some ways to provide property tax relief? Are there any services you think should be cut, and if so, why?

Mike Boyle: No smoke and mirrors to this answer. WE NEED GAMBLING! Let’s start with Sports Gaming. I heard Iowa pulled in $76,000,000,000,00 the first month of Sports Betting. Gambling is legal in almost every State near Nebraska. I serve as co-chair of the Budget Committee with Commissioner P.J. Morgan, Douglas County Finance Director, Joe Lorenz, helps us look for spending cuts wherever possible. But, County Government is an arm of the State. We need to add GAMBLING REVENUE so we can cut property taxes

Roger Garcia: The County Board can stop raising our taxes like they did in 2019.  Considering property valuations have gone up substantially within the last several years, the County is already receiving more tax revenue from those increased tax valuations. As a Commissioner I would cut the new effort to build an approximately 30 million juvenile justice center that is being paid for by bonds that were not approved by voters and none of these funds go toward prevention nor mental health services for youth.

What do you see as the three most compelling problems facing your office?

Mike Boyle: Prison crowding, Mental Health treatment and saving our young people from lives of crime are several important problems facing us. (High property taxes are a BIG PROBLEM, too). We need to enact fair bail relief so persons charged with misdemeanors can get back to work and back to their families. Mental Health care needs to be available to so many suffering neighbors and friends. The terrible crimes our young people are committing is alarming! We must let young people know they matter.

Roger Garcia: We need to engage all stakeholders in juvenile justice and build a strong consensus toward providing evidence-based prevention, intervention, and mental health services for our youth instead of building a new youth detention center that does not allocate funding toward youth programming.  Best practices tell us to focus on the front-end of juvenile justice not the latter end of detention. We also need to address the adult County Jail overcrowding & have a better functioning County Board.

What should the county do to address climate change issues?

Mike Boyle: Our Director of Environmental Services is a leader in his Field. Douglas County has adopted a Model, Low Impact Development Plan that conserves water and is cost effective. It calls for an end for dams that DO NOT stop flooding. DAMS FAIL. OPPD is offering options such as solar and wind generation. These renewable sources are needed. Thank you, OPPD Directors! I represented Douglas County in a Resilient Counties program sponsored by the National Association of Counties. Important lessions.

Roger Garcia:  The County needs to ensure that all new buildings and renovations implement the latest and best practices in environmental sustainability, such as natural and solar lighting. At MCC I sponsored a board policy that made it a priority for all of our buildings and practices to take environmental sustainability into mind and ensure that there is coordination across all of our buildings to ensure system wide efforts in this area. The County should ensure the same across all of its many buildings.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, District 3

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Cameron J. Gales (R):  No response received.

Gerald Mike Kuhn (D):
Occupation: Assistant Director of Human Rights and Relations for the City of Omaha
Current Public Office, dates held: None
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: Master’s Degree in Social Justice 2014 Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice 2005
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: 100 Black Men-Mentor for 2 years Volunteer Speaker for at-risk youth through: UNO & UNL, Detroit Metro YMCA, Boys&Girls Club Basketball Coach for at risk youth: Salvation Army & Hope Center Track coach North O Bengals

Dave Pantos (D):

Website: www.davepantosformetro.com
Occupation: Attorney and Adjunct Professor
Current Public Office, dates held: Vice Chairperson, Metropolitan Community College, January 2020-present; Board Member, Metropolitan Community College, 2017Present Past Public Office, dates held: Metropolitan Community College, Secretary, January 2019-January 2020
Education: JD – Indiana University Maurer School of Law (Bloomington, IN) MSES – O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (Bloomington, IN) BA – Rutgers College
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: Omaha Northwest Rotary Nonprofit Association of the Midlands Nebraska Supreme Court Commission on Children Legal Services Corporation Pro Bono Commission

Candidate Responses

How should community colleges differentiate themselves from four-year universities?

Gerald Mike Kuhn: -Community Colleges (CC) should continue to brand themselves as a skills, trades and technical institution of higher learning. This would allow the community colleges to actively search for partnerships with cooperation’s, to be a conduit for students to enter the workforce post-graduation. -CC’s need to collaborate with local school districts to develop dual enrollments tracks for eligible students. -Finally, CC should collaborate with 4-year universities for students that need 2-year college

Dave Pantos: Community Colleges need to provide high quality education to a diverse set of learners. The traditional community college student is by definition “non-traditional.” Therefore, community colleges need to ensure that there are no barriers to entry. In a world plagued by student debt, Community College should aim to be low or no tuition. Community colleges should continue to expand dual enrollment at high schools. The relationship between 2 and 4 year schools should be a partnership.

What should be the qualifications of instructors at Metro?

Gerald Mike Kuhn: Instructors should have adequate knowledge of the discipline they are instructing by either academia at least a bachelor’s level and years of experience and/or master’s level of academia. I feel that experience in certain disciplines can serve students better that an academic professor in some situations.

Dave Pantos: In addition to being excellent instructors/professors, Metro’s college professors must be prepared to meet students where they are. Many Metro students are first generation students. Many are food-insecure. Also, for those professors/instructors who are teaching in the trade or certificate programs, they must be up-to-date in terms of the business/economic needs of the community to ensure their instruction provides a quick gateway to high-paying jobs.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Gerald Mike Kuhn: During my first year, I will build relationships with fellow board members and press issues such as developing a school to work pipeline through skilled labor and trades. Transportation to all three campuses and dual enrollment for students and stipend pay for HS teachers that teach dual enrollment courses will also be a priority during the first year.

Dave Pantos: I will prioritize the following: expansion of Pell grants to all students; keeping no tuition increases as much as possible; expanding education options in Washington County and in West Omaha; and keeping the tax levy flat for our district’s taxpayers.

Nebraska Statewide 2020 Primary Voters’ Guide Now Available

The statewide primary voters’ guide is now available here: LWVNE Statewide 2020 Primary Voters’ Guide. This guide includes responses from candidates running in all races across the state, with the exception of Douglas County only races, which are available in our LWVGO Douglas County 2020 Primary Voters’ Guide.

Please feel free to read this guide on your computer, and/or to print it out on your own.

Personalized ballot information is also available on Vote411.org. On this site, you can enter your address to receive the candidates’ survey responses specifically for the candidates who will appear on your ballot.

Thanks to those candidates running for public office who took the time to reply to the voters’ guide questions so voters could make informed choices. If you have any questions about how to access the nonpartisan voters’ guide information, contact us.

 

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska State Board of Education, District 2

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Robert Anthony (R): No response received.

Lisa Fricke (D):

Website: www.lisafricke.com
Occupation: Retired teacher
Current Public Office, dates held: State Board of Education Member Incumbent-Elected in 2016
Past Public Office, dates held: NE State Board of Education is my first public office
Education: Graduate of Bellevue East, BAE from Wayne State College, Earned five additional teaching endorsements, Taught English 6-12, Geography 7- 9, Speech 7-12, Language Arts 6-8, and Reading 8
Military Experience: My father served in the US Air Force for 30 years. Being a member of a military family gave me a global perspective that still guides many of my decisions today.
Volunteer Experience: I have served as a volunteer for the Red Cross, Salvation Army, an Intergenerational & TeamMates Mentor, helped with NeSA Assessments for Reading and Writing, and was also a gubernatorial appointee to the Special Education Accountability Commission.

Candidate Responses

Do you see this board as being an elected or appointed body? Please explain your reasoning.

Lisa Fricke: I see the Board as an elected constitutional body. According to the NE Constitution Article VII, Section 3: “The State Board of Education shall be composed of eight members, who shall be elected from eight districts of substantially equal population as provided by the Legislature.” One state senator unsuccessfully tried to eliminate the State Board, and the legislature’s majority vote demonstrated their support for the Board’s work to ensure quality education for ALL students.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Lisa Fricke: School personnel, students, communities, and the state must work as a team to ensure school safety. School districts must have an up-to-date safety plan that utilizes best practices. Schools should have a process that allows students to report safety concerns. Several schools have weekly safety advisory meetings to assess potential safety issues–being proactive averts danger. Effective safety communication among all stakeholders is essential.

How can the continuing education of teachers be supported?

Lisa Fricke: Continuing education is important, but professional development meets immediate needs: Teachers should have input in this process. PD training improves teacher effectiveness which in turn improves student learning. Right now, mental health is a concern, but any training should start with districts ascertaining teacher needs. Then, the district can seek input from ESUs and the NE Dept. of Ed. that could provide trainers and best practice resources to support what teachers need to be successful.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Bennington Board of Education

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Terri Calabro (R):  No response received.

Tim Dreessen (R):  No response received.

Joshuwa Hannum (R): No response received.

Darren Siekman (R):
Website: www.facebook.com/dsiekman1
Occupation: Vice President, Valmont Global Irrigation
Current Public Office, dates held: 2002 to Present, Bennington Public School Board District #59
Education: Bachelor of Science, Agriculture; University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Volunteer experience: Maplewood Methodist Preschool Board; Bennington Public Schools Foundation Board; YMCA Coach, Bennington Athletic League Coach

Allyson Crossman Slobotski (R):
Occupation: Tax Attorney
Current Public Office, dates held: None
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: University of Nebraska – Lincoln – Juris Doctorate; Texas Christian University – Master of Accounting; Texas Christian University – BBA Accounting & Finance; Omaha Central High School
Military experience: None
Volunteer experience: Women’s Center for Advancement – first Guild President; Midlands Mentoring Partnership – Treasurer; Bennington Elementary PTO Board Member; Newport Landing Homeowner’s Association – Treasurer; University of Nebraska – Omaha Sorority Academic Advisor

Candidate Responses

How can schools use technology to foster better equity and educational outcomes?

Darren Siekman: During my time on the board, we have invested to become a “1 to 1” school system.  In grades 7-12 students are issued a chromebook and in the elementary schools we have combinations of computer labs and iPads which provide a device for every student.  However, the best thing schools can do to foster equity is investing in early childhood education.  Making sure that each child begins their educational journey with a strong foundation is the best predictor of future success.

Allyson Crossman Slobotski: Technology should be used to ensure students receive individualized education that meets their needs and evaluates their successes.  Using technology to provide training for our teachers and administrators enhances the educational experience for all. As technology becomes more and more critical to life after high school, we need to make sure all students have the tools to be successful and starts in the district.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Darren Siekman: Common sense and vigilance are the best tools we have.  We are very fortunate in Bennington to have a highly engaged community of parents and community members who “watch out” for each other.  The addition of a school resource officer has already proven effective in key situations, Deputy Baker is awesome.  Last but not least, being prepared with a comprehensive safety plan that regularly gets reviewed and tested is a key initiative in place.

Allyson Crossman Slobotski: Ensuring the safety of students, teachers,  and all staff employed by the School District begins with leadership from the Board of Education.  I would commit to working together, collaboratively, to ensure proper planning and adequate training is in place.  I would emphasize the importance of communication, technology, and employing best practices in the area to do what is necessary to ensure safety for all.  It is important everyone believes in the plan and truly feels safe at work everyday.

What role, if any, should charter schools have in the Nebraska educational system?

Darren Siekman: While I have not done much research on charter schools, I would ask which students are we trying to serve and what is the desired educational outcome from a charter?  The strength of public schools is the ability of local constituents to make decisions which are best for their kids and community.  Would a charter school still allow that input?  School funding and property taxes are always a challenge in Nebraska, could a charter school be funded in a way that is not detrimental?

Allyson Crossman Slobotski:  As a graduate of Omaha Public Schools and with children in Bennington Public Schools, I’m a huge public school supporter.  Nebraska is very lucky to have a fantastic public educational system well known for its diversity and quality education.  While Charter Schools may be a helpful tool in other states with struggling public school systems, I do not believe adding charter schools in Nebraska will enhance the existing system in such a way that it warrants a role.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Papio-Missouri River NRD, Subdistrict 9

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Tyler Berzina (D):

Website: www.tylerberzina.com
Occupation: Physics Teacher.
Education: Millard South High School (1993); University of Nebraska-Lincoln Bachelors (1998) and Masters (2004) in Secondary Science Education; UNL Assessment Endorsement (2006); UNL Graduate Science Courses (2008+).
Volunteer experience: American Legion Post 216; Assistance League of Omaha.

Patrick Bonnett (R):

Website: www.patbonnettfornrd.com
Occupation: Tax Accountant and Insurance Agent.
Current Public Office, dates held: I do not currently serve in public office.  However, I am the current Vice-President for the Walnut Grove Condominium Association Regime 1 formerly an S.I.D.
Past Public Office, dates held: I have previously served on the Papio-Missouri Natural Resource District Board in Millard from 2012 – 2016.  My main priority was getting Dam site 15A done which is now Fr. Flannigan Lake.
Education: I attended the Univ. of Nebraska and graduated with a BGSGA – Real Estate Finance & Land Use Economics.  My Minors were in Sociology and Military Science. I hold multiple professional licenses and have several post-graduate professional designations.
Military experience: I served as a Multiple Rocket and Deep Attack Missile Systems Specialist in the US Army Field Artillery from 1993 to 1996. Then as a Unit Legal NCO in the US Army Reserve from 1996 to 2003.
Volunteer experience: I volunteer from time to time for the Red Cross, for my Catholic church St. John Vianney, and for youth sports programs. I have also served on the Millard Business Assoc Board, Future Omaha’s Board and co-founded the Millard Alumni Association.

James Houlihan (R):

Website: www.Votehoulihan.com
Occupation: Accountant
Education: Bachelors degree from UNO BSBA emphasis in Accounting.

Candidate Responses

What steps will you take to prepare for changes in climate trends that affect natural resource district management?

Tyler Berzina: We must prepare for a new normal with an ever-changing climate. Prevention is much cheaper and prudent than cleanup and rebuilding, and we still have far to go from our current vulnerable position. As a NRD board member, I will support the building of flood mitigation measures which will create robust protections against climate change as long as each best course of action is supported by evidence and is fiscally responsible within our limited taxpayer resources.

Patrick Bonnett: To prepare for potential changes in climate and specifically drought, I would investigate opportunities for Water Banking in Nebraska where needed and where it might make sense.  Certain climate trends also appear to have impact on our Nebraska managed pollinator colonies and I would advocate for the restoration of the Honey Bee population which has seen a 50% decline in recent years.  I also support the President’s advocacy to plant 1 Trillion trees and intend to expand the NRD’s tree program.

James Houlihan: In order to be the best steward of our financial resources. I will vote to protect our lives, natural property and personal property. Following scientific data will help determine if our part of Nebraska will have future flooding issues or future droughts. Using these best estimates. I will vote to ensure our safety and our children’s future.

How do you address the concerns of citizens and developers who want access to NRD projects?

Tyler Berzina: As a forward-thinking physics teacher, I encourage, listen to, and support my students to be creative, objective, and innovative while making decisions based on evidence. I want to bring this same spirit to the NRD table when listening to the concerns of citizens and developers as they pertain to NRD projects. I look forward to hearing the pros and cons for specific projects, how developers can enhance project development, and am open to innovative efficiencies which can save taxpayer dollars.

Patrick Bonnett:  I support the practice of allowing all NRD projects to be generally open to the public unless there is a potential health hazard as may be the case with certain marsh or water quality basins.  Developers or other Municipalities sometimes target the acquisition of adjacent land and in those cases there may be certain opportunities for the taxpayer to realize a much greater return on their tax dollar.  I would seek out those opportunities.  I also intend to audit all Inter-Local Agreements.

James Houlihan: I want our citizens to have access to our natural resources. I want to help our younger generations have natural settings and stay here. Family is important. Creating natural settings will help to keep our children close to home.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Tyler Berzina:  Our community is in need of rebuilding damaged levees, enhancing and expanding flood control measures that were strategized many decades ago and have yet to be developed. Furthermore, urbanization, costs increased by waiting, current flood risks, and our need for recreation all necessitate completion of these projects sooner than later. I look forward to supporting flood mitigation and other needed projects that support the goals of the NRD, as these are well spent investments in our community.

Patrick Bonnett:  Once elected, I will focus my efforts on the following 7 priorities:  Flood Control; Air & Water Quality; Reduction of Soil Erosion and Stream-bed Sedimentation; Storm Water Runoff Control; Provide for High Quality Rural Water Supply; Improve Forrest, Fish & Wildlife Habitat; Provide Outdoor Recreation Facilities and Participation in Solid Waste Management and Recycling Efforts to help extend the Lifespan of our County Landfills which are an expensive burden to taxpayers.

James Houlihan:  Priorities. 1) Ensure levees are repaired and recertified. 2) Identify

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Board of Regents

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

The primary election is May 12. Find out more about voting by mail: Extensive guide | Quick video guide

Help us share this info! Forward these links to your friends and family. 

Candidates

Viv Ewing (D):

Website: http://EwingForRegent.com
Occupation: Human Resources
Current Public Office, dates held: N/A.
Past Public Office, dates held: N/A
Education: Ph.D. University of Nebraska at Lincoln MS University of Nebraska at Omaha BS University of Nebraska at Omaha
Military experience: N/A
Volunteer experience: Salvation Army Tree of Lights Chair, UNMC Board of Councilors, UNO CPACS Board, UNO Alumni Board, Human Resources Assn of Midlands-Past President,  Salvation Army Advisory Board, Rotary Board, Opera Omaha Advisory Board, Sienna Francis House Board

 

Mike Kennedy (R):

Website: http://kennedyforregent.com
Occupation: Attorney
Current Public Office, dates held: Millard School Board Member 2003 to Present, Omaha Public Library Board Trustee 2015 to Present.
Past Public Office, dates held: Metro College Board Member 1999 to 2003, City of Omaha Charter Review Commission 2013, City of Omaha Naming Committee 2015 to 2017
Education: Juris Doctorate from Creighton University School of Law, Bachelors of Science from University of Nebraska-Omaha, High School Diploma from Creighton Preparatory High School.
Military experience: none.
Volunteer experience: I have volunteered at many community organizations over the years including the Boy Scouts of America, Millard Public Schools, and the Catholic Church.

 

Jack A. Stark (R): 

Website: http://StarkforRegent.com
Occupation: Performance Psychologist
Current Public Office, dates held: None.
Past Public Office, dates held: none.
Education: B.A. Philosophy- St. Francis Seminary. M.A. Counseling Psychology UNL Ph.D. Counseling Psychology. UNL.  Military experience: None.
Volunteer experience: Ak-Sar-Ben Award for thousands of hours of volunteer mental health counseling, UNL and Creighton sports teams, 1000 presentations to churches, schools and non profits, National President of Disability Association and Community Foundation assistance  

Candidate Responses

What role does the first amendment have on college campuses?

Viv Ewing:  The first amendment assures us of freedom of speech. This means that freedom of speech on college campuses should be allowed and supported.

Mike Kennedy: The 1st Amendment plays a vital role on our college campuses.  A college campus is designed for learning and the civil exchange of ideas.  As a person that has served on education boards for the past 22 years, including the Metro Community College Board, I believe a person serving on the Board of Regents needs to ensure that 1st amendment rights are not infringed upon and that the University has a campus climate that is civil and open to the exchange of differing opinions and ideas.

Jack A. Stark:  The more serious and pressing issue in higher Education today is the restrictions on free speech and debate on American Campuses. Free speech zones, dis-invitations of speakers and campus shutdowns undermine our most important defining mission of the search for truth. I support the first Amendment fully as written and will support that standard on College campuses.

How do you see the future of funding for Nebraska’s public universities?  

Viv Ewing:  Given the economic climate of the State, I see the future of funding for Nebraska’s public universities continuing to experience funding reductions due to budget cuts. I have been involved in efforts to advocate for less budget cuts. We have to create public private partnerships to increase the funding and continue to educate our students, retain talent, and be competitive economically.

Mike Kennedy:  The University receives 59% of its budget from state appropriations which amounts to almost 1 billion dollars.  That $1 billion investment by the Nebraska taxpayers has a $4.5 billion impact on Nebraska’s economy.  Nebraskan’s know a good value when they see it.  I believe the future for funding is bright if the Board of Regents continues to manage the budget wisely and invests in projects like UNMC’s “Next Project” which will have billions of dollars of impact on our local and state economy.

Jack A. Stark: Recent adjustments to admission requirements will help with enrollment. However the University will still be facing funding constraints as they have exhausted what they will receive from the state and other sources. As a member of the Board of Regents I will review programs and make the tough decisions on what programs need to evolve or be cut in an effort to control costs for students and increase the quality of their education.

With the rising costs of higher education, how will you help to ensure that all young Nebraskans have access to a college education?  

Viv Ewing:   I will help to ensure that all young Nebraskans have access to a college education by 1). supporting initiatives to reduce tuition cost.  2). Increase education accessibility in all parts of the state through expanded technology infrastructure. This would increase access to education, benefit agribusiness, and the economy.

Mike Kennedy:  I have successfully worked on college affordability for the past 22 years.  While serving on the Metro Board we worked to keep tuition low and expanded aid. While serving on the Millard School Board, I helped create Nebraska’s first Early College program where high school seniors graduate with their Associates Degree from Metro.  The University needs to work on securing more public and private funding for scholarships and continue its efforts in helping students obtain high paying internships

Jack A. Stark:   UNMC’S NExt Project is a 3 billion public/private partnership that will be transformational for future students. We need to find similar public/private partnerships for all of our state colleges to better match students with their talents and areas of job growth in exchange for tuition for years of service particularly in STEM fields. This will help reduce tuition costs and excessive student loan burdens for the students upon graduation.

2020 Primary Voters’ Guide: Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, District 4

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

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PDF of 2020 Primary Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

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Candidates

Christopher C. Costello (R): No response received

Mark V. Holst (D):

Website: www.facebook.com/MarkHolst2020
Occupation: Insurance consultant
Education: Omaha Westside High School; Associate’s Degree, Metropolitan Community College; BA, University of Nebraska
Volunteer Experience: Septemberfest, Cathedral Young Adult Ministry, Nebraska Chinese Association, Latino Police Officers Association

Zach Reinhardt (D):

Website: www.zachreinhardt2020.com

Occupation: Real Estate Analyst & Broker
Current Public Office, dates held: None
Past Public Office, dates held: None
Education: Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, Real Estate and Land Use Economics, University of Nebraska at Omaha 2014
Military Experience: None
Volunteer Experience: MAPA Heartland 2050 Housing and Development Committee Co-Chair, 2018-Present; Citylight Arts Project Board, 2018-Present; Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Council, 2019-Present; UNO Real Estate Program Advisory Board, 2016-Present

Evan Schmeits (D):

Website: www.evanschmeits.com
Occupation: AFL-CIO Labor Liaison, United Way of the Midland; Past: Aide to State Senator Mike McDonnell
Education: Metropolitan Community College; University of Nebraska-Omaha
Volunteer Experience: AFL-CIO Building Trades Chili Feed, St. Thomas More Knights of Columbus, Vice President of Working Families Caucus, CASA Advocate, Guitarist at Church, South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, Apollon Art Space Board of Directors, South Omaha Clean-Up.

Candidate Responses

How should community colleges differentiate themselves from four-year universities?

Mark V. Holst: Our efforts are multi-faceted. First, we must actively prepare students with skills and knowledge essential for good jobs in our current and evolving workforce. For this reason, we need to recognize the Community College as a driver in our local economy. Second, the college is an invaluable partner in helping students transition from high school to 4-year college or trade programs. Third, Metro offers valuable opportunities for lifelong learning. These are distinctive missions.

Zach Reinhardt: Community colleges should differentiate themselves from four-year (often actually five-year) universities by focusing on providing affordable, real-world education that prepares students for good jobs without the crushing weight of student loan debt. By focusing on trade, technical, and job training education, and in doing so, community colleges can set themselves apart by providing instructors with real-world experience that students can learn from.

Evan Schmeits: Metropolitan Community College (MCC) is one of the prominent institutions in our community. MCC can be a stepping stone to a four-year degree, but it is so much more than that. It plays an important role in expanding Nebraska’s workforce. A four-year degree is not necessary to support a family: look at the salaries of skilled tradespeople like electricians & plumbers. The old mentality of “Work Smart, Not Hard” does not apply anymore in 2020. Beyond the trades, MCC has crucial medical programs.

What should be the qualifications of instructors at Metro?

Mark V. Holst: Instructors should have the necessary skills to be good communicators and classroom leaders. But ideally, MCC instructors also bring extensive real world experience and learned knowledge about the subject matter they are teaching. In the classroom, the instructors are on the front line in delivering student-centered education. This helps the college remain focused on that student learning goal, responding to community needs, and managing resources responsibly.

Zach Reinhardt: Because of its focus on real-world education, the qualifications of instructors at Metro should include real-world experience in the topic at hand, whenever possible. Industry involvement at Metro is key to providing students with real-world knowledge. An ability to translate the actual experience in each industry into the classroom should be a priority for any instructor at Metro. While an instructor’s educational background should be considered; actual industry experience is equally important.

Evan Schmeits: It is my understanding that Nebraska’s Department of Education ensures that educators of credit classes have, at a minimum, a master’s degree. Changing that would require a change in state policy or state law. Instructors of trade and/or vocational classes should be proficient in their area.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Mark V. Holst: To work with my fellow board members toward implementing the MCC strategic plan, for continued sustainable growth and progress at our College. As the only candidate in the race who graduated from Metropolitan Community College, I am committed to educational programs that sustain a robust economy and help attract new and better jobs to our community. Working together, we’ll find our most effective opportunities.

Zach Reinhardt: My first-year priorities will focus on supporting the important work Metro is already doing. Metro doesn’t need someone to come in and fix it. I will be a board member that works to promote all the good that Metro is doing in our community and more ways for the college to make a positive impact. I will be a champion for the students, providing guidance to ensures that Metro continues to fulfill its mission of delivering relevant, student-centered education to a diverse community of leaders.

Evan Schmeits: In my first year, I have a few priorities. They are: 1) Get more high school kids interested in the trades by expanding partnerships; 2) Push for MCC to offer reduced-price, on-campus child care for full-time students; 3) Keep tuition flat and make sure our taxpayer dollars are being used wisely; 4) Work with interested parties to make sure Metro Community College’s RN graduates can begin their career at Nebraska Medicine. Currently, Nebraska Medicine requires nurses to have a bachelor’s degree.