By Kelsey Stewart, News Editor
Election season is well under way. With much of the focus on the national election, local elections can sometimes be forgotten.
UNO’s College Republicans hosted guest speaker and Omaha City Council member Jean Stothert on Thursday at the Maverick Village Clubhouse. Members from Deb Fischer’s campaign and Mitt Romney’s campaign also spoke.
Stothert is running for mayor this year. She spoke to students about her upcoming mayoral race and her previous experience.
Stothert is no stranger to leadership roles. She has experience as a critical care nurse and served as department head of cardiovascular surgery at St. Louis University. She credits that as giving her business and management experience.
Stothert has held leadership positions in the past, having served on the Millard Public Schools board as an elected member and later as president.
In 2006, she ran for Nebraska Legislature against Steve Lathrop. Originally, Stothert was declared winner, she said. But after counting absentee and provisional ballots, the race flipped and Stothert was behind. She lost by 14 votes.
“I’m telling you, I know better than anybody how important it is to get out there and vote,” Stothert said. “Get your mom and dad and grandma and neighbors to get out there and vote, too.”
Stothert took the loss and learned from it.
“I learned a lot about myself during that race,” Stothert said. “You learn how to be a gracious loser and pick yourself up and move on.”
She credits her legislature experience to helping her do well in the City Council race.
“When you run for political office, two things are going to happen. You’re going to win or you’re going to lose,” Stothert said. “There’s no second place when you run for a political office. It really doesn’t matter if you lose by 14 or 14,000.”
Stothert has enjoyed her time working on the City Council.
“In the past three years, I feel like we have accomplished a lot,” Stothert said.
While Stothert has collaborated with her colleagues, she feels Omaha has a long way to go.
“We think we have had a real lack of leadership in City Hall,” Stothert said. “We can do better. In fact, we have to do better.”
Taxes have gone up on many different things and growth in the city hasn’t been as expected. In addition, crime has gone up.
“Our job is to create an environment where people will want to stay in Omaha,” Stothert said. “We’re failing at that right now.”
Stothert’s decision to run for mayor is a personal one.
“The reason I decided to run wasn’t to oppose anybody,” Stothert said. “It was because of my knowledge and experience. It’s current. I’m down there now. I agree with the rest of the community that we can be better led and better run.”
The upcoming mayoral election will be a competitive one. In addition to running against incumbent Jim Suttle, she will be up against Dan Welch, Dave Nabity and others.
“The difference between me and the other Republicans in the race is that it’s easy to be an observer and stand on the outside,” Stothert said. “It’s a lot different when you’re down there.”
If elected mayor, Stothert would be the first female mayor in Omaha’s history. She was the first woman on the council in over a decade after she was elected in 2009.
“I’ve never run on my gender, and I won’t in this race,” Stothert said. “I will bring a different perspective and temperament to the mayor’s office.”
Stothert looks forward to the political race. Even after one dog attack and doors slammed in her face, she enjoys going door-to-door.
“I like going to a house that has my opponent’s sign in the yard,” Stothert said. “If I make the effort, if I knock on that door and my opponent didn’t, they’re going to vote for me.”
Stothert enjoys hearing from voters. She uses Facebook and social media as mini-town hall meetings.
“I never put what I’m eating for breakfast or what movie I saw,” Stothert said.
She posts city issues and tries to omit her opinion. From there, the feedback flows. Stothert doesn’t care if people agree or disagree.
“I kind of like to hear that. When you’re elected, sometimes you think you’re right and you think you know it all and are on the right track,” Stothert said. “It’s really healthy to hear that.”
Stothert applauds the interest of young voters.
“I’d encourage you all to stay involved,” Stothert said. “It’s so important that you do. Your involvement can prevent things like a good candidate losing by 14 votes.”