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Several Platte County residents recently reappointed by Gov. Pete Ricketts to various Nebraska boards and commissions say they’re proud to be serving their state.

Platte Center farmer and former State Sen. Arnie Stuthman, who preceded Paul Schumacher in representing the 22nd District in the Nebraska Legislature from about 2002-2011, was recently reappointed to the Nebraska Invasive Species Council.

Stuthman, a Columbus High School graduate, has served on the board since its formation. But, he noted, he enjoys being part of it.

“I am happy he (Ricketts) reappointed me because I enjoy being of service to the State of Nebraska and for Platte County as a representative,” Stuthman said, adding he takes pride in being a local farmer and livestock feeder. “I like being of service to this county.”

The Nebraska Invasive Species Council is an advisory group that coordinates invasive species management and research across the state for the prevention and detection of invasive plant and animal species, according to information released by the State of Nebraska.

The Council serves as an advisory council to the Nebraska Legislature and the governor on invasive species issues. Through a coordinated effort among agencies, the Council aims to minimize the effects of invasive species to ensure economic and environmental well-being. The Nebraska Invasive Species Program is a nonprofit organization which works to protect Nebraska’s natural resources by providing outreach and coordinating the Advisory Council.

The term is two years and members meet as much as needed.

Stuthman said there are several important concerns the council is dealing with, such as the growing cedar tree issue. Nebraska lawmakers in recent years have attempted to address fast-spreading tree species, such as Eastern red cedar trees. Easter red cedar trees are native to the Plains but have spread out of control more recently, which is problematic because the trees suck up groundwater and sunlight at the expense of other plants, according to an Associated Press report.

“They’re taking over pastures,” Stuthman said. “So we’re working very hard on that.”

Platte County was well-represented on the governor’s list of appointments. Columbus’ Justin King was also reappointed to the council, as reported by The Telegram last week.

King is a proud "born-and-raised Nebraskan,” having grown up on a farm near Newman Grove.

“I have been around the outdoors and farming my whole life,” said King, a senior environmental specialist for Nebraska Public Power District.

King received his B.S. in biology from Midland Lutheran College and his M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Grand Island with threatened and endangered species. But since 1993, he has worked in the environmental department for NPPD in Columbus. Besides invasive species, he works with power plants, river and lake monitoring, fisheries and bird – powerline interactions, according to state information.

King said he has always been interested and compelled to find ways to save the natural environment, adding he enjoys working alongside others on the council.

“It’s a great group to work with,” King said. “It’s a bunch of smart, educated thinking outside-of-the-box people who are very good to work with.”

Nebraska Invasive Species Program Coordinator Allison Zach said Stuthman and King are valuable assets to the group, noting they’ve been part of it since its 2012 formation and helped get the bill for its start passed (for more information on this council, visit Neinvasives.com).

“They attend monthly meetings and are very important members of the community of our council because they’ve been around since the beginning,” she said.

Both bring unique backgrounds to the table, she noted. Zach said Stuthman’s time as a state senator is beneficial because he has “political know-how” and rural country perspective of what his neighbors and fellow farmers are concerned about. King has been “a really important person as we’ve developed aquatic invasive species management plans,” she said.

Fellow area residents Todd Tuls and Deb Loseke were also reappointed to the Dairy Industry Development Board and Nebraska Tourism Commission, respectively.

“I’ve certainly enjoyed serving on the tourism commission and I look forward to the next four years of serving,” said Loseke, director of the Columbus/Platte County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Loseke, who served the last four years on the commission, said she’s happy to be on the commission for another four years. She highlighted the state’s new slogan, “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

“We’ve certainly come along way, especially with our new campaign,” she said, referencing the marketing campaign that made waves last year and caught attention nationally with people like CBS’ “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert.

Tuls was not available for comment for this story, but last served on the same board from 2004-2007, according to Kathleen Dolezal from the Office of Gov. Pete Ricketts.

As for Stuthman, he reiterated his love for Platte County and what he said he feels makes it special.

“To me, Platte County and the Columbus area, I’m proud of this area because of the industry growing in Columbus and the workplace opportunities for many, many people,” he said. “And I enjoy being of service to this county.”

Ricketts praised all who commit their time to helping Nebraska grow.

"Thank you to the many Nebraskans that give generously of their time and talent to make a difference in our state," he said, in a release. "These appointments will provide crucial insight and expertise to their respective boards, committees and commissions."

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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