Senator leaves farm for new field

Above: Sen. Dan Hughes and his wife Josie pose in front of the famous faces of Mount Rushmore.

When Sen. Dan Hughes’ uncle ran for the District 44 legislative seat in 1974, he figured he was known well enough in the area that he didn’t need to campaign.

Herb Hughes’ defeat taught his nephew a valuable lesson about how to run for office that stayed with him for 40 years.

“I wasn’t going to make that same mistake,” said the new lawmaker from Venango. “I’m fortunate to have advanced to the job that he came just a few votes short of getting.”

Hughes said his uncle’s political pursuits and his parents’ community service—including his father’s more than 30 years of service on the Venango school board—set examples that helped put him on a path to the Unicameral.

In the agricultural community, Hughes said, helping neighbors and friends is a way of life, and serving on organizations such as the Nebraska Wheat Board and the Nebraska Farm Bureau is how he gives back to the agriculture industry. Serving as a state senator continues that effort.

“I get a lot of enjoyment helping my fellow farmer,” he said. “I just like being busy. I’m not happy unless I have about six balls in the air at the same time.”

One of those “balls” is the farm Hughes runs with his wife of 37 years, Josie, and his two adult children, Tyler and Ashley. A third-generation farmer, Hughes lives a half-mile from where he grew up in Imperial and names farming as his sole passion.

Although Hughes said it was a tough decision to leave the farm for the Legislature, his absence gives his children the opportunity to maintain the operation “without having dad looking over their shoulders.”

“I get to follow my dreams and it allows them to begin the transition of the farm for the next generation,” he said.

For now, his transition from farmer to senator is made a little easier, Hughes said, because the Unicameral conducts its business in the winter when life slows down on the farm. Despite knowing the farm is in good hands, Hughes said it will feel a little awkward when the weather warms and he’s conducting the state’s business rather than the family trade.

A self-professed “farm boy,” Hughes said that he’s had more difficulty dealing with Lincoln’s nighttime traffic noise than with the legislative process. Having testified before committees on behalf of the wheat industry, Hughes said he now enjoys seeing how laws are created and finds the inner workings of the Legislature fascinating.

“I like to know how things work,” he said.

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