Senator finds finish line at the Capitol

Above: Sen. John McCollister and his wife Deb enjoy some quality time with grandsons David and Andrew Ledger.

Marathon running provides valuable lessons in politics for new Sen. John McCollister.

“Running for office is a marathon,” said the Omaha senator. “You have to be tenacious. I knocked on over 11,000 doors during my campaign.”

Having completed three full marathons, several half-marathons and countless 10K races, McCollister knows whereof he speaks.

“I don’t run as far as I used to, or as fast,” he said, but the new senator has learned from experience that—both in politics and road races—life is about the long-term rather than any individual mile.

His father, John Y. McCollister, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. The younger McCollister took a semester off from his studies at UNL to campaign for his father, but said the experience didn’t inspire him to want to follow in his dad’s footsteps and serve in Congress.

“I saw what he had to go through,” he said. “You have to spend at least a third of your time raising money in order to retain your seat.”

Instead, McCollister found ways to engage in public service closer to home, including 30 years on the Metropolitan Utilities District board of directors. He also was able to explore a wide range of public policy issues for four years as the executive director of the Platte Institute for Economic Research.

McCollister credits the experience of working with diverse organizations such as the state and Omaha chambers of commerce, ACLU Nebraska and Nebraska Appleseed with broadening his perspective on a number of issues and nurturing an independent streak.

“When you work with a wide variety of partners with different political philosophies, you see sides of an issue that you may not have otherwise noticed,” he said.

So far, McCollister said he’s enjoying the fast-paced environment at the Capitol and looking forward to tackling tough issues like taxation, prison reform and reorganizing the state Department of Health and Human Services.

When not focused on policy issues at the Legislature, however, McCollister said time with his family is a top priority. He and wife Deborah have three children—Lauren, Daniel and Jeffrey—and two grandchildren. McCollister said his wife helps him focus on what really matters in life.

“The best day of my life was the day I married her,” he said. “She is a remarkable woman and absolutely the world’s best grandmother.”

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