Senator features

Kauth seeks commonality amid conflict

Above: Sen. Kathleen Kauth poses with Herbie Husker at Memorial Stadium in 2022.

For many people, disagreements are something to be avoided at all costs. Not so for Omaha Sen. Kathleen Kauth. As a trained mediator and conflict coach, she knows that being willing and able to talk to people with different perspectives is a must in life — not just in politics.

“Conflict doesn’t ruffle my feathers,” she said.

One key to Kauth’s approach is finding common ground, whether that’s connecting with fellow lawmakers over a shared love of Harry Potter books at new senator orientation last fall — House of Gryffindor, in case you’re wondering — or bonding over Husker football with strangers while traveling.

“We are all going to disagree about a lot of things,” she said, “and that’s why you look for the commonalities.”

Kauth, a native of Illinois, has plenty of experience making new friends and finding connections, having relocated seven times for husband Andrew’s career before settling in Omaha in 2012. While his job brought them to Nebraska, it soon became clear that it was a place to put down roots so their children could experience all of their high school years at one school.

“This is our favorite place that we’ve ever lived,” Kauth said. “It feels like home. We’re Midwesterners at heart and the schools and neighbors are incredible.”

Even so, she acknowledges that the years the family spent in West Palm Beach, Florida were “fabulous.”

“We had people visiting us from November to April every year — literally, every weekend. We moved to Kansas and nobody came to see us,” Kauth laughed. “They were coming to see the beach.”

Kauth’s interest in elected office was sparked when the sanitary and improvement district in which the family home is located was annexed by the city of Omaha — a situation she said many in the neighborhood didn’t realize was happening until after the process was over. As a result, she started considering a run for Omaha City Council.

With the encouragement of friends and neighbors, she decided to enter the race. Just one small oversight: she forgot to tell Andrew.

“So, I called him and said, ‘Just so you know, I’m running for city council — see you tonight,’” Kauth laughed.

Always a good sport, he greeted her that evening as “councilwoman” and the campaign was on. Although she didn’t win that race, it was the start of political involvement that eventually led to her appointment to fill the Legislative District 31 vacancy created by the death of Sen. Rich Pahls in April 2022. She was elected to the seat in November of that year.

The experience reinforces Kauth’s advice to those who want to get involved in public policy.

“The process is cumulative,” she said. “You might not see results today, but your involvement in the process will pay off down the road.”

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