Senator features

Legislature gains energetic spirit in Hughes

Above: Sen. Jana Hughes (front row center, with mummy) and her cycling class in October 2019.

For a fitness-minded lawmaker like Sen. Jana Hughes of Seward, serving in the Legislature can present many pitfalls.

“Food, food, food and sitting, sitting, sitting,” is how she jokingly describes her typical day.

But Hughes, a fitness instructor at the YMCA of Lincoln for more than a decade, is finding ways to stay active as she connects with fellow senators over their workout routines and settles into her new role.

“I feel like I do get a lot of steps in here because you’re going to meeting rooms [for] this and that,” she said.

Hughes also rises early each morning for a basement workout before heading to the Capitol. She’ll return to her normal schedule leading strength training, cycling and other classes at the YMCA when session ends.

Hughes said she loves the social aspect of her classes and incorporates themes whenever she can — in past years, she has led Christmas and Fourth of July themed bootcamps.

“Give me a chance to dress up, and I’m all over it,” she said.

Her flair for performance dates back to her high school days, when Hughes joined swing choir and show choir after being cut from the volleyball team.

As a teen with a knack for math and science, she decided to study engineering at Texas A&M, whose weather she preferred over Nebraska’s.

After graduating with a degree in industrial engineering, she took a job designing warehouses and distribution centers, moving around the country to live near projects in Virginia, Minnesota, Tennessee and Florida.

She returned to Nebraska in 1996 when she married her husband, John, who had been a year ahead of her in high school. The two had reconnected when she took an internship at John’s family’s business, a Seward company that manufactures hardware for the electric utility industry.

Hughes left the consulting firm in 2000 and became a stay-at-home mom to Lena, Anna and Hank.

In 2018, she won a seat on the Seward school board after an informational session held by the school’s superintendent piqued her interest in property taxes and school levies. Now that Hughes is a member of the Legislature, she hopes to continue working on education policy at the state level.

“I am only here to do what’s best for Nebraska,” she said. “I needed to leave [the state] and come back [to] realize it, but I wouldn’t want to raise my kids anywhere else.”

Bookmark and Share