Hometown: Seward, Neb.
Role: GIS/Research Analyst, Legislative Research Office, Nebraska Legislature
Years of legislative service: 14 total in three stretches (1983-85, 1987-92 and 2017-22)
What inspires him: “Creativity is the thing that inspires me the most. Some people think that data is just data, but making it really paint a picture or tell a story that is not obvious on its face helps legislators get more out of that data.”
Why did you choose to work at the legislature?
I feel like it chose me. I started out as a page in the Legislature, knowing no one, and worked my way up to legislative aide and then research analyst for the Revenue Committee. After a stint in the private sector, and then another in the nonprofit community, I returned to the Legislature and found my way to this current position as a GIS/research analyst. Working for a legislature gets in your blood. Even when you are away from it for a while, you always look at what is happening in the arena with a different eye.
What skill or talent are you most proud of?
Skills involving the law, geographic information systems and data analysis are up at the top of the list. The ability to take complex concepts and break them down into understandable information is probably my favorite skill. Most people love a good story and like someone who can convey that story well.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
I was once told by someone with tons of experience in the legislature that I could write any bill on any subject if they could write one section—the definition section. The foundation of each piece of research and legislation has to be clearly defined. If not, it can become inconsequential very quickly.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
This may be crazy but what I like most about Nebraska was summed up best by Jason Momoa in an interview. “Anyone who spends time on the road knows there’s something special about being in the middle of Utah or Nebraska—you sit with it, and there’s a peace about it. You can go left or right, and it opens up all kinds of doors. You take your own path.”
What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?
I just started reading “Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data,” by Phil Simon, and “Death of the Senate,” by Ben Nelson. I just finished the “Bully Pulpit,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I’m listening to the “The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes,” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m watching “Stranger Things” when I get a few minutes for TV.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
For its “Staff Snapshots” series, State Legislatures News is asking legislative staff about their role in the legislature. If you’d like to suggest a staffer for this series, please email Holly South at NCSL.