Who am I?
Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska since 2009. I served on the City Council for one term, from 2005 to 2009. Prior to that, I had a long career as a civil engineer in the private sector, with brief stints in government around the country, including a period as Omaha's Public Works Director in the1980s. With my election to the City Council, I retired from my position as vice chair of the board for Omaha-based HDR, one of the nation's largest architectural and engineering firms. I hold bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from West Virginia University. I am a Democrat, as is my wife, former Nebraska State Senator Deb Suttle. We have two adult daughters.
Why am I running?
When Deb and I moved to Omaha we knew immediately that we had found the place we wanted to put down permanent roots. We both have been very active in our community, particularly in efforts to promote education and the arts. Deb is a retired nurse and I am very proud of her service in the Nebraska Legislature, where she was a strong voice for education, working families and economic development. I ran for Mayor of Omaha and City Council before that because our community was facing a crossroads with tight budgets and diminished services. I believe this my most important accomplishment, as the Brookings Institute ranks Omaha #1 in weathering the recession. We renegotiated contracts, refinanced our debt, raised the revenue needed to balance our budget, cut waste and restored our AAA credit rating. We are also now delivering the services taxpayers expect, have modernized city hall, made City operations more sustainable and put more government services online.
I have two major goals above all others. Reduce crime and create jobs. These are not unrelated issues. Although Omaha now has the lowest unemployment rate of America's top 50 cities, we still have pockets of high unemployment, particularly in our poorer neighborhoods. I have worked hard to change the mindset of locating industry and jobs in the suburbs outside Omaha and pushed to encourage more job creation closer to our inner city. We are now on course to break ground on a new industrial park near North Omaha and my goal is a similar development near South Omaha. On crime, I have invested in both enforcement and prevention. We have successfully placed a priority on education, truancy reduction, lower dropout rates, after school programs, summer youth jobs; and for adults better job training and recruitment services, and expanded career education programs. Nearly 12,000 new jobs were created in our community last year. For law enforcement, we are engaged in community policing, have increased the size of the gang unit so we now have gang suppression in North and South Omaha seven days a week. We are using new technologies to more rapidly identify, report and respond to gunshots. And we are targeting illegal guns, removing nearly 950 of these weapons from our neighborhoods last year alone. As a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, I am also a strong advocate of curbing access to assault weapons and high capacity magazines, better background checks and expanded access to mental health services which might help detect and prevent some future tragedy.
My DFA Values
As Mayor, it is an article of faith that my responsibility is to represent all Omahans. I've invested great energy and time in promoting our local food pantries because I believe addressing hunger in our society is a responsibility for all elected officials. I was proud to hold a signing ceremony when the City Council passed an ordinance to include the LGBT community in our non-discrimination protections, because all Omahans should be afforded the basic civil rights provided to their neighbors. My priorities for private sector job creation and educational opportunity are driven by the premise that no matter how low our overall unemployment rate may fall, we must always remain cognizant of those who are not sharing in our economic recovery. We are getting things done in Omaha, but we have much yet to accomplish.
My Campaign is People Powered!
Our campaign has the largest number of unique donors and the largest number of people included in our social networks. More important, the faces of our campaign reflect the entire community in Omaha, people from all parts of our city, from different social and economic backgrounds and we are running the largest grassroots efforts knocking doors, making phone calls and holding neighborhood rallies.