New governor deserves congratulations

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Nebraska's new governor, Dave Heineman, is being criticized for his selection of a Third District resident, Rick Sheehy of Hastings, as lieutenant governor "for political reasons."

The selection of the former Hastings mayor as Nebraska's second-in-command could very well be a politically astute move, but -- even if it weren't -- the choice is in the best interests of Nebraska.

As the Gazette said in an editorial when Heineman began his search, the lieutenant governor selection holds great promise for uniting the state. The Gazette's editorial declared, "When it comes time to consider who to choose as Nebraska's next lieutenant governor, we hope the governor-to-be, Dave Heineman looks statewide."

The editorial explained: "Nebraska needs unity. Nebraska needs inclusion. Nebraska needs the inspiration and excitement of new people in influential positions. The lieutenant governor selection is an excellent opportunity to provide that fresh leadership."

Gov. Heineman came through in flying colors with his selection of Sheehy. The governor reached out to a proven leader on the local and regional level. Sheehy, 45, has been a member of the Hastings City Council since 1994 and has served as mayor since 2000.

In that time he has faced some tough issues, including the closing of the Hastings Regional Center. He fought hard to save the center, but when that effort failed Sheehy went forward, and now supports the mental health reform law.

It is also in Sheehy's favor that he has served as a paramedic, which put him on the ground level of emergency support. This is a valued part of life in Nebraska, where quick, caring aid is an essential service for communities of all sizes.

It's also of interest that Sheehy is a former Democrat. He switched to the Republican party 17 months ago, saying the GOP was a better fit for his beliefs.

It is worth noting that Mike Johanns, the governor who left the governor's office to become U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, also was a political convert, changing from the GOP to the Democratic party before running for statewide office.

When Gov. Heineman flies into McCook Wednesday to meet with the press and the public, we need to turn out to offer him our congratulations and best wishes. After all, he's a former resident, having lived in McCook and Benkelman in the early to mid-1950s. And, he's starting off his service as governor in commendable fashion, selecting a Third District resident as lieutenant governor, and making it a point to include Western Nebraska in his early-term travels.

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