Above: Sen. Mike Hilgers, his wife Heather and their three daughters attended an Easter egg hunt at North American Martyrs Catholic Church in Lincoln.
Sen. Mike Hilgers doesn’t take the sometimes contentious nature of legislative floor debate personally. As a practicing litigator for the past 13 years, the Omaha native has learned that those who oppose you one day may be on your side the next.
“In my line of work, people are literally paid to oppose me and my client’s interests,” Hilgers said. “It is a great training ground to learn that you can respect your opponents and have collegial relationships no matter how adversarial the situation gets.”
That focus on harmonious relationships started long before his current professional or legislative careers. As the middle child in a family of high-achieving siblings – including several doctors and lawyers – Hilgers found ways to develop strong family ties. So much so that all five siblings attended Baylor University as undergraduates.
Turns out, though, it wasn’t necessarily academics that were the draw.
“My brothers were there and the weather was warm – it wasn’t a sophisticated calculus,” he laughed. “But, I did meet my wife Heather there, so it was the best decision I could have made.”
Though they met and were friends in college, the two didn’t date until meeting again several years later in Dallas after he’d graduated from law school at the University of Chicago. She also is an attorney and, by the new senator’s estimation, an “all-star” at juggling career, family and extensive community involvement. And he appreciates how lucky he is.
“Convincing a Texan to move to Nebraska is maybe my biggest achievement,” he joked.
Since coming back to Nebraska, Hilgers and his wife have started a family and are the parents of three young girls: 5-year-old Alice, 2-year-old Elsie and 7-month-old Clara Jane. With two active parents, it’s a juggling act, he said.
“The youngest is my alarm clock now,” Hilgers said, adding that the couple has learned to cut out anything extraneous in their lives. For his part, the senator has developed a motto for getting through session: “If it’s not an emergency, I’ll see you in June.”
When asked if there’s anything he might enjoy doing when session finally does end, Hilgers offered an animated response.
“I’m excited to take my oldest daughter on a trip around the state to see the sights and the history,” he said. “The best trip my family ever took was several years ago when my siblings and I all piled into an SUV and spent a week hitting the backroads of Nebraska. We had no plan and only two rules: avoid interstates and big cities – the trip was the destination. I’m excited to share that experience with her.”
The best part, he said, was having no cell phone service and really connecting with family. They took photos of small town signs, stopped at neglected historical markers and went where the road took them.
“People tend to take for granted how beautiful and full of history this state is,” he said. “I don’t want to do that. With young children and a growing small business, I want to spend my time in the Legislature making sound decisions that enhance the quality of life in Nebraska.”