Leadership Lincoln County: Day in the Capital City Recap
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise or so the saying goes and with that in mind Leadership Lincoln County meet at the North Platte mall parking lot at 6:15 am to head to Lincoln for a day full of learning and new experiences. Even at this early hour many of the participants could be heard having conversations about volunteer hours and what the day had in store for us.
Upon arriving at the Capitol after our three plus hour voyage many participants commented on the architecture of the building and how dark the halls were. We were soon led to a meeting room and were told that Senator Mike Groene would speak to us. The Senator soon arrived and spoke about several topics ranging from landlord rights to what many would consider his platform, property taxes and TIF reform. Senator Groene invited the group to attend a town hall meeting later in the week in North Platte.
Next to speak was Ruth Sorensen, Property tax Administrator. Mrs. Sorensen spoke about her job responsibilities and how her office oversees local property tax assessors. The next speaker was Craig Kubicek, Assistant Deputy of the Nebraska State Auditor’s office. Mr. Kubicek spoke about multiple cases that his office has investigated. Mr. Kubicek was then followed by Josh Shasserre, the Chief of Staff for the Attorney General’s office. Mr. Shasserre spoke about staffing in his department.
After a brief wait and short question and answer session, Governor Pete Ricketts spoke with the group. The Governor spoke about his priorities while in office, including: The need for the state to grow its economy while seeing a competitive tax rate for everyone. Governor Ricketts stated that he hoped to see the state average for property tax increases be capped at 3% on average across all sectors for both homes and agricultural land. The Governor also spoke about the need for 21st century infrastructure and the need for corrections reform, further stating that every inmate needed a plan from day one on how they would get out of the system. Governor Ricketts finished with pointing out that Nebraska has the 2nd lowest unemployment rate in the US.
The class was then off to the Norris Legislative Chamber to view an active session of the 104th legislature. After a short viewing and exposure to Parliamentary procedure we were off to eat our box lunch and head to the State penitentiary for a tour.
Upon arrival at the penitentiary it became apparent that this would be a 1st for most of us and for many of us an eye opening experience. The group was led to a holding area where we were instructed to empty everything out of our pockets as nothing is permitted inside the prison. After cramming our belongings into lockers and showing our ID it was off to meet with the staff for a briefing and preparation for our tour. We were addressed by the Director of the prison as well as the Warden and two other staff members. After the briefing we were led to the yard and our tour began, our tour guide was Mark Danner a 30 plus year veteran of the staff. It immediately became apparent that this would be an up close and personal tour with direct contact with the inmates. We were led through a cell block that housed sick and disabled inmates and then were led through several other areas and workshops. One area of note was the license plate manufacturing center where we were able to speak to an inmate serving a life sentence for an undisclosed crime. That inmate spoke about how this program was a
Coveted job and was the only thing that kept him motivated from day to day as it gave him a sense of pride and accomplishment. We were also able to tour a workshop that makes brail books and other media. After our tour of the yard came to an end we met back in a room for a final question and answer session with an inmate, Herman Buchman. Mr. Buchman is currently serving a life sentence for murder. We were told that no questions were off limits and if Herman chose not to answer a question he would just say so. Many of the participants asked questions and Herman answered them all. Herman spoke about getting married while in prison and the limitations that places on a relationship. Herman spoke about his trial and while he did not say he was guilty he did say that if he had been on the jury he would have convicted himself, he also added that his case was made into a television special. After all of our questions were answered and Herman left the room Mark our tour guide said a few final words. It was very apparent that even though he has worked in the prison for over 30 years and has had to deal with some of the worst offenders possible he truly has great concern for the people he is entrusted to watch over. In his parting words spoken with a shaky voice he thanked us for being there and taking the time to see and understand what goes on.
It was now time for a day that was full of new experiences that began well before the sun rose up above the Platte River and would end well after the sun set behind the Nebraska sand hills to come to an end, giving the participants of this session of Leadership Lincoln County an experience they can now share with their friends, family and co-workers. Thank you to all of those individuals that made this day possible.
Robert Derbyshire is an Operations with the Wal-Mart Distribution center in North Platte. Robert has worked in various roles in Wal-Marts Logistics division for the past 21 years at multiple locations across the US. Robert and his wife Corey have two children, Kashia and Shawn.