A Day in the Life: Governor Dave Heineman

By: Chad Silber Email
By: Chad Silber Email

He holds one of the most difficult jobs in our state, but if you ask him, he'll say it's the greatest job in America. Dave Heineman has held the title of Governor for more than 7 years.

From the moment he wakes up and steps outside, Governor Dave Heineman is clocked in.

On this particular day, his agenda takes him to several cities around the state.

By 6:30am, he's at Lincoln Municipal Airport. Also booked on this trip, his Communications Director, a cabinet member, another state worker and his personal security. Today's mode of transportation, the King Air.

6:50am: Within 20 minutes, our wheels are up and we're bound for Norfolk. It's the beginning to a whirlwind trip where the Governor will wear many hats.

"It's a lot of fun everyday," said Heineman. "It's a big challenge, no question about that but I feel like we're making a difference. We're moving this state forward."

7:10am: Twenty minutes later, we land in Norfolk where another member of the Governor's security detail is waiting to bring the governor and his guests to our first stop: a Charitable Giving Campaign breakfast at the Norfolk Veteran's Home. The stop is meant to encourage state employees to donate to a fund benefiting non-profit organizations around the state.

8:35am: After a short breakfast and lots of handshakes, it's back to the airport, a member of his security detail escorting us at every moment.

9:05am: As we make our way west to North Platte, the Governor opens up about his everyday challenges. The biggest effort right now -- drought conditions.

"Certainly when you're dealing with a water issue that affects farming and the economic development of a community and trying to figure out how do you use water resources more efficiently," said Heineman.

We also talk about working around the clock.

"It's 24/7," says Heineman. "If there's a tornado, it doesn't make any difference which day of the week, we're going to spring into action."

Jen Rae Hein is Heineman's Communications Director. "You can certainly start with a game plan in the day and have a great set schedule for the day and one news story could hit or one event could happen and then your entire day can change so you really just need to be flexible."

Keeping every member of Governor Heineman's staff on point is key to his success. "Governor Heineman makes it very clear that what we do is public service and it's really incredibly important to just always keep the focus of Nebraskans and what you can do to help them everyday," said Hein.

"We know how to communicate with each other, we know what the expectations are, that all really helps," adds Heineman.

I ask him if there's such thing as an easy day. "Only when the Huskers are playing football and I'm doing everything I can to make sure they win. I have a red phone right to Coach Pelini so I can help him call the plays."

9:50am: This morning's second stop is a groundbreaking for a new bank in North Platte. Governor Heineman is the guest of honor.

11am: After grabbing a quick lunch to-go, we're back at the airport and back in the air, our sights set on Grand Island. Getting outside Lincoln is a top priority for Heineman. "I've found that Nebraskans find it easier to talk to me if I'm at an event like we did this morning or a ribbon cutting or a groundbreaking where they want to come up and share with you one on one."

I ask him about the biggest challenge trying to make everybody. "If you try to make everybody happy, you won't do a very good job and you'll get into trouble. You need to stand up and tell the people of Nebraska, here's what I stand for."

12:15pm: Our Grand Island stop is another push for the Charitable Giving Campaign. With another stop, comes another lunch, but only a few minutes to chat.

1:30pm: Within an hour, we're back in the air, headed home. A rare quiet moment, and a chance to reminisce about what he'll miss the most when his final term is up in a couple years. "The ability to help Nebraskans," said Heineman. "If there's anything I'm proud of is that we're trying to be more customer focused in state government."

We continue to talk about his future and what he sees for himself and his family after his term is up. "I don't know the answer to that and I don't get too worried," said Heineman. "My dad told me a long time ago, just do the job you have really well and the rest will take care of itself."

2:20pm: When we return to Lincoln, it's right back to work. The Governor has a meeting with his staff in his office at 3pm.

When he's finished there, his final task for the day is a dinner in Omaha.

For us, it's a welcome end to the day.

For him, it's just another day in the life.

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