After 32 years in public service, U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, says he's had enough of campaigning, elections and the discord in Congress. He announced a few weeks ago his intent not to seek re-election in 2014.
Thirty-two years in local, state and federal positions is a long time, but I don't regard Johanns as a career politician. That's a term attached to many senators and representatives who hang on far too long.
In my view, Johanns, fits more in the mold of a public servant, a soft-spoken but determined politician who stands up in the Senate for his country, warning colleagues and the rest of us about the federal spending addiction of the Obama Administration and the terrible hole of federal deficits created for America and its future generations.
Nebraskans can be proud of his support for agriculture, too, not only as a U.S. senator but as USDA ag secretary in the Bush Administration.
He just joined the Senate Committee on Appropriations, a committee that, according to Johanns, "will be directly involved in doling out and reining in federal dollars for government programs. I think it's time we do less of the former and more of the latter," he adds.
As senator, I appreciate his criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency and what he calls its "aggressive agenda and lack of understanding about how our economy works." He has referred to the agency as "short-sighted and arrogant."
Based on those concerns, he introduced legislation earlier this year to create more transparency and accountability from EPA. In a Senate run by Democrats the bill probably doesn't stand a chance. It certainly is needed. This is the federal agency that just gave to extremist environmental groups information it collected on concentrated animal feeding operations. The information covers livestock operations in more than 30 states, including many family farmers who feed less than 1,000 head and are not subject to the federal Clean Water Act. The information released reportedly includes producer home addresses and geographic coordinates.
As ag secretary, Johanns did yeoman's work on developing the 2008 Farm Bill, lining up some more than three dozen farm bill listening sessions across the country in 2005. He hosted many of them himself. "This was the most extensive input USDA had ever taking directly from producers for a developing farm bill," says Brad Lubben, UNL policy specialist.
Johanns served just one term in the Senate. But he rose up through the political ranks, serving his local community and state first.
Raised on an Iowa dairy farm, Johanns got his undergraduate degree from St. Mary's University in Winona, Minn., and earned his law degree at Creighton University. He practiced law in O'Neill and Lincoln before his election to the Lancaster County Board. He became Lincoln mayor in 1991 and won re-election in 1995. He next won election as Nebraska governor in 1998 and was re-elected in 2002. It was in his second term that President George W. Bush picked him as USDA ag secretary.