First, Gov. Dave Heineman assures us it doesn’t seem like it has been 10 years.
But, it has.
Heineman leaves the governor’s office this year after occupying it longer than anyone else.
In an interview with Nebraska Radio Network, Heineman says seven years as state Treasurer and three as Lt. Governor prepared him to take over after then-Governor Mike Johanns became Secretary of Agriculture.
“I love being the governor this great state,” Heineman says. “I’m proud of our state. Every day it’s fun, exciting, interesting, challenging to wake up, to come over here to the governor’s office and see if we can’t continue to move this state forward.”
Heineman says he came to the office determined to focus on two things: education and the economy.
The governor goes through a list of statistics that indicate he has succeeded.
Nebraska boasts the second best high school graduation rate in the nation and a top ten ranking in the number of high school graduates going on to college, either two-year or four-year institutions.
Nebraska has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, far below the national unemployment rate. It has been ranked as the top state in economic development on a per capita basis. Nebraska has passed Texas as the number one cattle feeding state and remains a top agriculture producer as well as home to large agri-businesses.
Heineman says the work he has done with the Unicameral the past ten years allowed the state to weather the recession and come out much stronger economically than other states.
“We put Nebraska in a very good place and yet I very strongly believe the next governor and the next legislature has to take us to an even higher level,” Heineman says.
Fellow Republican Pete Ricketts succeeds Heineman later this week.
Two issues tarnish the sterling record, though.
And while the governor acknowledges mistakes, he disputes the assessment of his critics about the severity of the mistakes and his role in them.
Heineman rejects the notion that privatization of child welfare services failed. He notes Nebraska Families Collaborative still operates in the Omaha area. Heineman acknowledges privatization didn’t work in Lincoln, though he says the providers assured his office they could handle the work. He doubts it will ever be feasible in sparsely populated western Nebraska.
Heineman says he acted with Attorney General Jon Bruning to fix problems with the Department of Correctional Services after the Omaha World-Herald disclosed the department miscalculated the sentences of prison inmates, leading to the release of hundreds prematurely.
Heineman dismisses any suggestions that the prison sentence miscalculation scandal will harm his reputation as reported earlier by Nebraska Radio Network. Heineman says mistakes happen in an organization as large as state government and his duty as governor is to address mistakes and seek to solve them, which he says he has done.