Unopposed, but still working hard
Sen. Greg Adams speaks on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature.
Story by Tim Svoboda
The morning of November 8, 2006 Greg Adams’ hand was forced, he would no longer be able to teach the York High School American government and economics classes he had anchored for more than 30 years. It was time to call it quits.
“When I retired, it was because I won the election,” said Adams.
Adams is the physical embodiment of a 58 year old man until he crosses his arms, tilts his head and leans back ever so slightly. Only then do you notice the ice blue eyes and the deep lines on his face. A stern yet interested look that was rehearsed for 30 years at the front of a classroom.
And then in a flash, it’s gone.
“I reached a time in life, where I’d spent 20 years in city government, the (legislative) seat was open because of term limits and I didn’t want to look back and regret the decision not to throw in my hat,” Adams said. “I had an interest in politics outside the academic environment.”
His interest was rewarded by the citizens of Nebraska’s 24th district.
The former York mayor and city council member joined the legislative class of 2007, the first senators elected after the enforcement of term limits that restricted senators to no more than two consecutive legislative terms. Despite being an inexperienced member of an inexperienced class, Adams received a glowing endorsement from this hometown paper.
“Sen. Adams has spent his adult life preparing for just this task. With decades of experience in education and municipal government, York’s former mayor is well ahead of the curve among his class of 20 freshman senators,” wrote the York News-Times.
Sen. Greg Adams. Photo courtesy of the Nebraska Legislature
Now this fall, Adams is running unopposed for his second legislative term.
“I’m not campaigning per se. Not in an obvious sense, by shaking hands or going door to door,” he said.
But he’s still getting his message out, by attending events in the community, and as he said, “Doing his job as a senator.”
His job as a senator took him from the classroom, but he could not escape a role in education.
“When I arrived at the legislature, I put in for committees that ran the gamut,” he said. “I spent my life in education, why not try something else.”
It didn’t take.
Adams received a fitting appointment, chairmanship of the Education Committee.
“It was just my nature to want to communicate ideas and help people understand things,” he told Unicameral Update, an in-house news source devoted to the Nebraska Legislature.
“People told me that this (the Education Committee) was where I belonged,” he said, a sentiment he now acknowledges.
His service to education is not limited to a single committee; he also serves as a member of the Developmental Disabilities Special Investigative committee, Education Commission of the States committee and the Midwestern Higher Education Compact Commission. But he’s not just an advocate for education, he’s a disciple. Adams holds a bachelors and Masters of education from Wayne State University.
“There’s no greater legacy to leave the youth of Nebraska than an opportunity to learn,” he said.
As Education committee chair he’s fought to preserve that legacy. Adams passed 15 bills involving education in his first four years in the legislature and presided over the 2007 floor debate involving the controversial rewriting of Omaha’s School districts. An Omaha World-Herald editorial described him as possessing, “eloquence, an even temper, a quick mind and a generous spirit.”
Adams hallmark bill, outside of education, was a change to Nebraska’s Community Development Law. His bill, LB562, eased the burden for local municipalities to create enhanced employment areas. The policy is wonky enough to make most eyes glaze over until Adams’ motivation is revealed.
Adams quickly replies that he wants to preserve strong communities. A position statement of Adams’ reveals that this bill was a commitment to his former students. He wanted to preserve a community for his students to return to, that wouldn’t be possible unless they had, “…maintained the quality of life they grew up with and want for their children.”
So while his colleagues are fighting for their political lives, Adams remains hard at work. He’s already started working on the next round of educational budget cuts that are sure to come.
“He’s focused on York, but his fight for education is going to influence the entire state,” said Ilene Goeke, a lifelong York resident, now retired.
What more could a district ask for?