By Kelsey Stewart, News Editor
Dan Welch thinks Omaha can do better.
With rising property taxes and wheel taxes, and new restaurant taxes and occupation taxes, Welch said it’s more difficult to do business with the city of Omaha.
“I just don’t know what we’re getting for all the money that is being spent,” Welch said. “It seems like we’re covering up problems with additional money as opposed to taking problems head on.”
If elected mayor, Welch said he will tackle the city’s problems head on. And with his past experience, he feels ready for the job.
“Because of my combined business experience and legal experience and government experience in the city of Omaha, I feel like I can make a difference,” Welch said. “I can turn things around.”
Welch, an Omaha native, started out as a catastrophic insurance adjuster. In between jobs, he returned to Omaha and volunteered with Jon Christensen’s congressional campaign.
When Christensen won, Welch accompanied him to Washington, D.C. as a staff member.
One year later, Welch decided to go to law school. He then started a practice with his father and brother.
Shortly after he started practicing law, Welch wanted to run for Omaha City Council.
After traveling as an insurance adjuster, Welch realized what other cities had to offer and wanted to bring that to Omaha.
“At the time, we were experiencing the ‘brain drain.’ A lot of talented young people were leaving the city for greener pastures…as opposed to staying in Omaha,” Welch said. “I thought, maybe I can make a difference.”
Welch ran and beat an incumbent. Later, his colleagues elected him city council president. And they kept him in the position for two consecutive terms.
Juggling a law practice and public service got to be a challenge for Welch. He had to make a decision-practice law full-time or practice politics full-time.
“I was robbing Peter to pay Paul a little bit,” Welch said. “I was thinking that probably wasn’t the best thing for my constituents. That probably wasn’t the best thing for my clients.”
In 2009, he stepped down from his city council position to practice law full-time.
But the legacy he left was being able to get along with his colleagues.
“That’s important when you’re talking about getting things done. One thing I always tried to do as a city council president is I tried to get along with everybody,” Welch said. “You have different political views. You have different personalities. But if you work hard at it, you can get along with people. And when you get along with people, you can get things done.”
Stepping away from city government hasn’t kept Welch out of the loop. He’s still been paying attention to what’s happening to the city of Omaha.
“I feel like Omaha can do better,” Welch said.
Welch said he can solve the city’s problems, or at least make them better.
In addition to tackling tax rates, Welch wants to focus on reducing crime and violence, particularly in northeast Omaha. While Welch said one mayor can’t solve the problem, he can plant the seeds and violence will start go down as a result.
Once the fiscal house is in order, Welch said, issues like job creation will take care of themselves.
“When you’re on the city council for eight years, you really encounter about every issue there is to encounter in city government,” Welch said.
At the start of this mayoral campaign, Welch admitted he didn’t have the kind of name recognition he wanted. But as the campaign continues, it’s been improving dramatically, he said.
What initially drew Welch to politics in Omaha is his reason for running for mayor-to make the city better and a more vibrant place to live in.
“I’m going to finish that job as mayor,” Welch said. “Omaha is at the brink of really, really being a great city. With the right mayor, we can get there.”