Above: Sen. Danielle Conrad with husband, Tom, along with children Caroline and Will, enjoying the arboretum on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus.
When Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad left the Legislature due to term limits in 2015, after serving for eight years, she recalls thinking that one should “never say never” when it comes to returning to politics. But she embraced the opportunity for a shift in focus.
Conrad took on the role of executive director at the ACLU of Nebraska — a move that allowed her to remain engaged in public policy and legislative issues while growing the organization to new heights.
“We were a really small and scrappy team. We had a pretty modest budget and a four-person staff,” she said. “I was able to help build the organization during the eight years at the helm to a staff of about a dozen [people] and quadrupled the budget.”
It was a meaningful endeavor and a labor of love, Conrad said.
Having eight years away from public service also provided the opportunity not only to stay involved in key political issues facing the state through her work at the ACLU, she said, but also gave her a “little breathing room” to nurture and expand her family.
While daughter, Caroline, was born during Conrad’s first stint in the Legislature in 2011, she and husband, Tom, welcomed their second child, Will, in 2016. Having the time to be present and engaged with her son was important — something she hopes her work at the Unicameral will allow other families the ability to do.
The more flexible schedule also meant the family had time for more adventures, including fishing and embracing the outdoors.
“In the summer, we live at the swimming pool,” she said, “and in the winter we live at the sledding hill.”
But as much as she loved her new life, Conrad felt a calling to return to public service in 2022 to try and make a difference on a broader scale after witnessing “storm clouds” on the political horizon.
“If I could possibly do more with my unique experiences to try and make a positive difference then I just have to try,” she said.
This time around, Conrad had help from her children — who knocked on doors, checked off the walking list and put up yard signs on the campaign trail.
It was a “real family affair” and a way to model for her kids that they should jump in when they see a problem in the community that needs to be solved or a challenge that should be taken on, Conrad said.
Her experiences as a mother of two, a wife to a small business owner and supporter of her husband in caring for his aging parents have provided Conrad a deeper understanding of several key issues facing the state during her second time at the Legislature.
“I think my life experiences are much broader and much more diverse today than they were during my previous term of service when I came in as a single young professional, and I think those lived experiences provide a lot of significant benefits,” Conrad said.