In a little over two months I'll be out of office. The stark reality that 20 years of public service, 8 as governor and 12 as senator, is coming to a close really hit home last week during my first extended interview since I announced I would not seek re-election to the Senate.
That interview on NRG Media's Issues and Answers with Neil Nelkin, who's covered much of my political career, drove home the point that I had achieved the dream I'd had since I was a teen growing up in Nebraska to become governor and later senator, and it gave me a chance to reflect on why I wanted to be in public service in the first place and did that service have a positive impact on Nebraskans.
I got into public service because I like to solve problems. Success in solving problems requires that people with different viewpoints come together. Most Nebraskans, no matter which party they're in, want their elected officials to work together. They have become increasingly aware that extreme partisanship leads to gridlock.
As governor I embarked on a theme of "ONE Nebraska" emphasizing the goal that urban and rural interests come together, and that those things that bring us together as a community, state, and nation are more important than those things that divide us.
As senator my hope was always to have ONE Nation that can learn to collaborate when possible and compromise when necessary, just as we did in Nebraska. We had some successes but today partisan politics has too often hampered the ability to put aside political differences and work toward the common good. As we have seen with the farm bill, which for the first time in history was allowed to expire this year without being reauthorized, the atmosphere in Washington has become so politically poisonous that it's nearly impossible to pass the most basic of bills needed for our country to function.
I have always been a staunch advocate for Nebraska. As a rural state with a relatively small population someone needs to work hard in Washington to make sure our needs are not overlooked.
That's why I made it my first priority to advocate for those things that Nebraskans told me were their priorities. I fought hard to protect agriculture, and promoted funding for projects that were priorities to Nebraska such as roads, bridges, water and sewer projects, state fiscal relief, and major projects such as the new STRATCOM Headquarters and VA Medical Center in Omaha, the Antelope Valley and West Haymarket redevelopment projects in Lincoln, and many other community projects throughout the state from the College of Nursing in Norfolk to a new Missouri River Bridge at Rulo and maintaining Essential Air Service in Scottsbluff and McCook. Nebraska has always been my priority when it comes to federal assistance for communities and the state.
This column, which is sent out each week, is called "A Nebraskan's View" because a Nebraskan is what I am and always will be; not a senator; not a governor, but a Nebraskan. My appreciation goes out to my fellow Nebraskans that have joined in relentless pursuit of one Nebraska, one Nation. The successes achieved are ours together.
Click here to hear the NRG Media interview with Neil Nelkin.