By Cong. Adrian Smith
As a Governor, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and U.S. Senator, Mike Johanns has been one of the greatest public servants in the history of the State of Nebraska. While his career in politics will conclude at the end of this year, his legacy, example, and impact will continue.
Mike Johanns’ public service began in 1983 when he was elected to the Lancaster County Board. In 1988, he was elected to the first of two terms on the Lincoln City Council, before being elected Mayor of Lincoln in 1991.
In 1998, he began as an underdog running for the Republican nomination for governor. However, his well-organized campaign, focus on solutions, and pragmatic approach to the issues led him to a landslide victory in both the primary and general elections. These qualities continue to serve him and the people of Nebraska well.
I first met Mike Johanns when he was Mayor and I was a member of the Gering City Council. Soon after, he was elected Governor and I was elected to the Legislature. As a member of the Legislature, I saw his strong leadership first-hand. He always focused on doing what he believed was right for the state in the long run, over what was politically expedient. He balanced the budget, provided tax relief, and set a record for the number of bills vetoed.
It was no surprise when President George W. Bush nominated Governor Johanns to serve as his Secretary of Agriculture in 2004. As President Bush stated when making his announcement, “Governor Johanns is a man of action and of complete integrity. He knows how to bring people together to achieve results. He has been a superb leader for the people of Nebraska.”
While we were sorry to see then-Governor Johanns leave, it was significant to have a Nebraskan in such an important post for our state’s ag economy. He also left the state government in good hands: Governor Dave Heinemann is now completing 10 years in this role.
Secretary Johanns left the Department of Agriculture in 2007 to return to Nebraska and run for the United States Senate. He easily won in 2008. By then, I was serving in the House of Representatives and it was a pleasure to work with Senator Johanns, this time in Washington.
Senator Johanns has been a model of leadership, integrity, and statesmanship in the Senate. He sought solutions, not the spotlight. He has remained true to his conservative convictions, but always tried to find agreement and common ground with the other side.
I am deeply thankful for Senator Johanns and his wife Stephanie for their service to our state and our nation. I join all Nebraskans in wishing them Godspeed as they move on to the next chapter of their lives.