At a Columbus Rotary meeting on Tuesday at Hy-Vee, state Sen. Wendy DeBoer encouraged Columbus area residents to reach out to her with ideas and feedback.
DeBoer represents district 10 in the Nebraska Legislature, which covers the northwest part of Omaha.
District 10 used to cover all northwest Omaha and the City of Bennington, but that changed when the legislature finished redrawing its districts a few weeks ago according to the 2020 census.
"Now I have almost none of Bennington, so things have changed a little bit. Now when I introduce myself, instead of saying I'm from Bennington and northwest Omaha, now I say I'm from northwest Omaha," DeBoer said.
Even though she doesn't represent Columbus in the legislature, DeBoer encouraged the people of Columbus to reach out to her.
"I want to invite you all to write this … Omaha senator when you (in Columbus) have ideas, when you have solutions, when you think of something," DeBoer said. "...You have an excellent senator here in Mike Moser, but you can write me, too."
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DeBoer began serving in the legislature in 2019 and is nearing the end of her first four-year term. She launched her reelection campaign later in the day on Tuesday, after the Rotary meeting.
At the meeting, DeBoer was introduced by Paul Schumacher, a former state senator who served Columbus's district 22 before the current senator, Mike Moser, was elected.
Schumacher touched on the need for bipartisanship when he introduced DeBoer, who -- unlike him -- is a Democrat. Schumacher mentioned recent discussions he's had on the "depth and dangers of the red and blue divide" in the United States.
"If we're going to get past this challenge, the leadership is not going to come from the old boys. It's going to come from the young (officials)," Schumacher said at the Rotary meeting. "When I was leaving the legislature, three rather remarkable young women showed up: Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, Sen. Megan Hunt and Sen. Wendy DeBoer. Wendy is becoming the intellectual course in the legislature and the conscience of the legislature and she has shown great leadership."
DeBoer covered a number of topics at the Rotary meeting, including prisons, rural broadband, school funding and Nebraska's shifting population. But, she said, the issue she wanted to spend the most time on was Nebraska's relational infrastructure.
"The bridges that go between me in Omaha and you in Columbus, that bridge between people who think differently, that bridge between all the chasms we find our society -- that's … starting to crumble," DeBoer said. "This is the most important infrastructure … our relational infrastructure."
DeBoer said that relational infrastructure grows when people speak face-to-face, especially about issues that might divide them, and stressed the importance of thoughtful civic engagement.
"Engagement from the public helps us," DeBoer said. "...There are 49 people in the (legislature) … but there are lot more brains outside of that room than are in the room. If we have the benefit of your knowledge, of your experience, that really helps us as we're trying to make our decisions. We've got to get that … relational infrastructure in place."
Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at email@example.com.