Senator features

Holdcroft launches legislative career

Above: Sen. Rick Holdcroft, right, with son-in-law Erich, son Rick and daughter Amy in Holdcroft’s backyard in Bellevue.

Several years ago, Sen. Rick Holdcroft of Bellevue noticed that certain trees on his property weren’t bearing fruit. So he brought in some help: honeybees.

Holdcroft took a community college class on pollinators and in his backyard set up two hives, which last year yielded seven gallons of honey. Until recently, he was manager of the Omaha Bee Club’s apiary.

“I could spend an hour with you on [the] biology of bees,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

It was a practical solution from a person with a practical bent. Holdcroft earned degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and computer science at naval postgraduate school in Monterrey, California. His wife, Mary Jo, and their five children all earned degrees in technical fields.

Holdcroft’s father was in the submarine service, and he spent his early years in California, Nebraska and Florida, living in military housing and playing baseball with friends whose parents also served in the Navy.

“Military life was what I knew and what I looked forward to doing,” he said.

Holdcroft joined the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program at UNL and, after receiving his commission in 1976, spent nearly 30 years as a surface warfare officer. He served aboard several warships and completed stints at the Armed Forces Staff College and what is now the Navy Warfare Development Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

In 1995, he took command of the USS Arthur W. Radford, a Spruance-class destroyer. Under Holdcroft’s command, the Radford became one of the first U.S. Navy ships to sail into the Black Sea to visit the post-Soviet states of Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine after the Cold War ended.

“It was the best job I had while I was in the Navy,” he said.

Among other assignments, Holdcroft also finished two tours at STRATCOM at Offutt Air Force Base. After retiring from the Navy, he used that experience to start a second career directing the Bellevue field office of a defense contractor that made solid-fuel rockets for ballistic missiles and the space shuttle. He retired from that job in 2016 and started beekeeping.

Fortunately for Holdcroft’s bees, they are mostly self-sufficient and don’t require his constant attention. A few years after starting his new hobby, a phone call put him on course for a different hive of activity that would leave considerably less time for beekeeping.

In 2019, former Sen. Andrew La Grone called Holdcroft “out of the blue.” Later, at a local coffee shop, La Grone and Sen. John Arch of La Vista asked Holdcroft if he would be interested in running for the District 3 legislative seat in 2020.

Holdcroft lost in a close race, but, when the 2021 redistricting process moved his residence to LD36, he decided to try again and won.

Now that Holdcroft is back in a position of service, he said, he looks forward to working with other members of his large freshman class to pass the conservative legislation his constituents want.

“I felt like … it was my time to serve the state of Nebraska,” he said.

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