Senator features

Aguilar returns for second act

Above: Sen. Raymond Aguilar enjoys reading to his granddaughters Emmy (left) and Anna Lyn.

During his farewell address to the Legislature in 2008, Sen. Raymond Aguilar of Grand Island said that he and his colleagues had worked to make Nebraska better.

“I’m sure in our own way we will all continue that work in another form,” Aguilar said then.

But even as he was saying those words, Aguilar now admits that he always had a desire to return and continue his work in the same form.

“I enjoyed my time here. I think I did some good. I wanted more of the same,” he said.

Aguilar was appointed in 1999, becoming the Legislature’s first Latino member.

“I’m very proud of that. Somebody had to step up and be first,” he said. “Diversity is very important. You’re getting a different perspective you’ve never had before, and that’s what government should be about.”

Aguilar, who owned a lawn care and janitorial service before retiring, was elected in 2000 and 2004 before being term-limited out of office. During his first nine years in Lincoln, Aguilar introduced legislation that established a Child Advocacy Center in Grand Island, moved the state fair to his hometown and created drug courts.

“When I came down for [new senator] orientation, I visited the Supreme Court, and right off the bat they were talking about the success of the drug court and other problem-solving courts within the system. That made me feel pretty darn good,” Aguilar said. “A program I put together that many years ago is still moving — doing what we intended it to do, getting kids off of drugs.”

This year, he introduced legislation to help Grand Island. Specifically, he hopes to repeal a law in place since the 1800s that prohibits casinos from being located near a county or state fair.

Aguilar’s non-legislative schedule also is full. He and his wife, Susan, have nine children and a few dozen grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“We do Christmas in shifts,” he said.

For a while he tried his hand at acting. Aguilar loved being on stage — a Grand Island theater troupe’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was his first play — but his emerging second career hit a snag.

“A lot of productions were musicals, and I can’t sing,” Aguilar said. “The comedies, I loved that part.”

After leaving the Capitol in 2008, Aguilar worked at Grand Island High School for 10 years. While there, his desire for an encore was renewed.

“Being at a school, you see things that need change,” Aguilar said.

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