Senator features

Dover finds adventure in the everyday

Above: Sen. Robert Dover (right) and long-time friend Mark Dahlheim take a break while hiking in Montana’s Glacier National Park

Even the peeling paint in Sen. Robert Dover’s temporary 12th floor Capitol office can’t dim his enthusiasm for his “dream job” as a state senator. With its arched windows and Tuscan yellow walls, the space could, with a bit of effort, evoke a charming ambience, he said.

“All you need is a nice little Brie or Camembert … a little romantic accordion music and it could feel like you’re in Europe,” he joked.

Dover would know. He and wife Ann spent more than a month traveling through Europe and Egypt in the early 1990s for their honeymoon. Dover seized on the trip as an opportunity to provide his new wife — who had never been on an airplane before — with a whirlwind, romantic experience of a lifetime.

That willingness to charge headlong into adventure began early.

As a first-year, pre-med student at the University of Nebraska, Dover’s life took an unexpected turn after a confrontation with his father, who believed his son should be taking business classes instead. The conversation ended when Dover’s father reminded him who was footing the bill for college.

“So, I took my tv, my stereo, my clothes and my car — because that’s all you own as a college student — and I drove to Montana,” he laughed.

Dover found work as a roughneck on an oil rig and spent three years making friends with coworkers from all around the country and hiking in the mountains on his days off. He enjoyed it so much that he considered moving to Abu Dhabi to continue in the oil fields there, but the pull of home was stronger.

After coming back to Nebraska, Dover studied business and Spanish at Wayne State College — spending some time honing his language skills in Valencia, Spain — before once again choosing home and family. The relationship with his father mended, Dover agreed to forgo his plan to attend law school in California to stay in Norfolk and work in the family business.

“I knew that I could find adventure anywhere,” Dover said. And he has.

He refers to his kitchen as “the best restaurant in Norfolk,” where he prepares everything from paella and hand rolled dolmades with lemon and dill sauce to spaetzle and risotto. He even recently filmed a “how to” video for fellow senators on the best way to prepare a rack of lamb.

“It’s honestly hard to go out to dinner because I find myself thinking, ‘I could make this dish better,’” Dover laughed.

He and Ann raised four children, two of whom now live on quarter sections of land 10 miles south of Norfolk that have been in the family since it was homesteaded back in the 1880s, and Dover has had a successful career in real estate. He also has provided many years of community service through fundraising and volunteerism in the arts, economic development and scouting.

Whether sharing his culinary skills, spending countless hours poring over binders of budget information as a member of the Appropriations Committee, or sharing his sense of adventure with family and friends, Dover says his goal always is to be helpful.

“Helping is what I do. I don’t know any other way to be,” he said. “I’m always going to try and get people to talk to each other and see each other’s point of view — that’s how the world changes for the better.”

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