Above: Sen. Abbie Cornett.
Shortly after moving into her State Capitol office, Bellevue Sen. Abbie Cornett posted a quote from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on her door: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”
Those who meet the District 45 senator discover that Cornett is well-mannered, but loves adventure and takes risks that would cause most men and women to shudder.
“Honestly, I’m an adrenaline junkie,” she said.
Cornett spent most of her career as an officer for the Omaha Police Department. In addition to her duties as an officer, Cornett was a certified handguns instructor and taught classes on enforcing DUI laws.
“I always enjoyed helping people, but it’s also a really exciting job,” Cornett said.
Cornett retired from OPD in 2002 because of a knee injury. After retirement, Cornett completed her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, which she earned from Bellevue University in 2003. She will finish her bachelor’s degree in history this summer.
Cornett decided to run for the Legislature because she wanted to continue her career in public service. She said her experiences as a police officer have given her a unique perspective on criminal justice issues and social problems.
“Unfortunately, you see things on the police department that the rest of the public doesn’t see,” Cornett said.
She also was interested in changing the state’s approach to economic development. Nebraskans complain about a lack of job opportunities, but few people try to solve the problem, she said.
“I decided to stop complaining and start doing something,” Cornett said.
Running for the Legislature was an eye-opening experience for her. Cornett said she was surprised by the personal questions constituents asked about her ability to balance legislative duties with being a mother of young children.
“It was hard not to get angry,” Cornett said.
She decided to approach her duties as a senator the same way she handled her responsibilities on the police force.
At one time, Cornett was the only female officer to work the midnight shift in her precinct. When she first received that assignment, some of her colleagues questioned whether Cornett could handle the job, but the criticism stopped when they saw her performing well, she said.
“The best way to prove [gender] is not an issue is to just do the job and not whine,” she said.
Cornett’s husband, Mark Stranglen, works a day shift at his job so he and Cornett can spend time with the couple’s twin daughters, Victoria and Madison, during the evening. Cornett also stays home with their children on weekends and legislative recess days.
In her free time, Cornett enjoys riding her horse, Rastaman, which is named after a Bob Marley song.
“When I got him, he had dreadlocks, literally,” Cornett said.
Cornett learned to ride horses as a child on her family’s land in western Nebraska. She can ride western-style and English-style.
But not all of the senator’s hobbies are adrenaline-inducing.
Cornett also enjoys cooking – homemade pasta is her specialty – and reading.