Meet the Newest Senators


After the final results of the general election held on November 6, 2018, ten senators were re-elected for their second term while at least ten new faces—and one familiar face—will head to Lincoln in January as the Nebraska Legislature begins its 106th Legislative Session.

Three incumbents, including two of whom were chairs of the Legislature’s most important committees, lost the reelection bids: Judiciary Chairwoman Laura Ebke of Crete, Health and Human Services Chairman Merv Riepe of Ralston, and Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha. Riepe’s failed reelection bid was one of the most expensive races this cycle, pitting him against former state senator, now returning senator, Steve Lathrop of Omaha.

What’s more, two serving state senators from Sarpy County and Otoe County won elections for other elected offices and will now vacate their legislative seats. This includes Sarpy County Senator John Murante, who was elected as State Treasurer in November, and Senator Dan Watermeier who was elected to the Nebraska Public Service Commission. Governor Ricketts has since announced an application process for appointees for each seat. All told, there will be 13 new senators joining their 36 other colleagues on January 9, 2019.

Several of these fresh faces come from an education background or made education issues a central issue of their campaign. The new class of senators also include a new senator representing Papillion La Vista Community School’s district. Let’s take a closer look.

Photo of John Arch John Arch
representing Papillion and La Vista

Recently retired executive Vice President of Health Care for Boys Town National Research Hospital, Arch is no stranger to healthcare. Prior to his role at Boys Town, he served as vice president of marking at Omaha’s St. Joseph Center for Mental Health. Given the breadth of his experience in healthcare, he is interested in serving on the Health and Human Services Committee. Senator-elect Arch is no stranger to Papillion La Vista Community Schools where his wife Brenda has taught for many years and his children attended school.

Photo of Tim Gragert Tim Gragert
representing Rock, Boyd, Holt, Knox, Cedar and Dixon Counties

Recently retired from the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Gragert is a military veteran who was deployed to the Middle East as a helicopter pilot four times. He is currently a member of the Creighton school board, where he is a lifelong resident. Gragert replaces State Senator Tyson Larson who is term-limited.

Photo of Dave Murman Dave Murman
representing south central Nebraska including Clay, Nuckolls, Webster, Franklin, Kearney, Phelps and part of Buffalo County

A third-generation dairy farmer, Murman is a former Sandy Creek school board member, former EMT and former president of the Nebraska State Dairy Association. A married father of three, he has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture with a minor in political science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His legislative priorities include lowering property taxes while working for equitable funding of schools and high-quality education.

Photo of Wendy DeBoer Wendy DeBoer
representing northwest Omaha, north-central Douglas County and the City of Bennington

A lifelong learner and educator, DeBoer recently returned to Omaha to finish her doctoral work in Christian theology and the philosophy of religion from Syracuse University. She is also an attorney and has served in a variety of religious and academic leadership roles. DeBoer currently teaches philosophy and religious studies courses at University of Nebraska-Omaha. A daughter of educators and a product of Nebraska public schools, she is a strong supporter of public education. DeBoer replaces Senator Bob Krist who is leaving the Legislature due to term limits. She beat her opponent in a close race; however, the margin was not narrow enough to trigger a recount. DeBoer would like to serve on the Health and Human Services Committee and Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

Photo of Steve Lathrop Steve Lathrop

representing Ralston, Millard and Omaha

Previously elected twice to the Legislature in 2006 and 2010, Lathrop is a partner at Hauptman O’Brien Wolfe & Lathrop. He has chaired the Business and Labor Committee and was vice chair of the Judiciary Committee before being term-limited. Lathrop was also heavily involved in the Beatrice State Development Center crisis.

The Nebraska Constitution only allows for two consecutive terms but does not include a lifetime cap, which means senators can sit out four years and run again. Lathrop is only the second senator to return after term limits. He also served as special counsel to the Legislature’s Special Investigative Committee regarding prison overcrowding and Nikko Jenkins.

Lathrop made state support for education a central theme of his campaign. He has announced his intention to seek election as Judiciary Committee chair in January.

Photo of Machaela Cavanaugh Machaela Cavanaugh
representing west central Omaha

A lifelong Omahan and daughter of former Congressman John Cavanaugh, Machaela most recently worked at the Buffett Early Childhood Center Institute at the University of Nebraska. She serves on the boards of Inclusive Communities and the Morningstar Preschool’s Advisory Committee.  Married and mother of two daughters she has a Masters in Public Administration from UNO. Cavanaugh beat Governor Ricketts’ appointee Theresa Thibodeau. She would like to serve on the Health and Human Services Committee and Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

With Senator Deck Almost Set, Committee Elections Now Take Center Stage

Election results are in and senators and staff alike largely know the cast of characters that will occupy the Legislature’s 49 seats in a few short weeks. Attention now turns to who will serve as committee chairs for the Legislature’s 14 standing committees.

When the Legislature convenes for the first time on January 9, one of its first—and most pressing—orders of business is the election of committee chairs. Many of the committee chair races appear wide open, with almost half of the committee chairs from the 2017-2018 biennium left either due to term limits, failure to win re-election or successfully gaining election to another office.

In Nebraska, committee chairs wield tremendous power in terms of advancing public policy to the floor of the Legislature. Here is a list of senators who have announced their intentions to run for chairs of committees that could impact Papillion La Vista Community Schools and education more generally:

  • Senator Jim Scheer, Speaker (Incumbent)
  • Senator John Stinner, Appropriations Committee (Incumbent)
  • Senator Mike Groene, Education Committee (Incumbent)
  • Senator Rick Kolowski, Education Committee
  • Senator Sara Howard, Health and Human Services Committee
  • Senator-elect Steve Lathrop, Judiciary Committee
  • Senator Brett Lindstrom, Revenue Committee
  • Senator LouAnn Linehan, Revenue Committee