The annual visit to the Treasurer’s Office by Cornhusker Girls State citizens on June 9 led to a lively question-and-answer session as Treasurer Don Stenberg was asked about his career path, his life as a lawyer, and his future plans after he leaves office in January 2018.
“I get asked that a lot and have thought about it a lot,” Treasurer Stenberg responded to the question about his future plans. “My wife wants me to retire. I don’t know what I will do. Time will tell.”
In Nebraska, the State Treasurer is limited to two terms of four years each. Stenberg, who served as Nebraska Attorney General for 12 years, took office as State Treasurer in January 2011.
Among the seven Girls State citizens visiting the Treasurer’s Office was Shelby Butts of Alma, who was elected State Treasurer in the mock campaign and election that took place during Girls State week in Lincoln. The others were Shaelynn Goodall of Deshler, Ashlynn Engelhard of Cortland, Jenna Johnson of Hooper, Hannah Fields of Harvard, Kaylee Moe of Homer, and Cora Brott of Paxton.
“It was a process,” Treasurer Stenberg when asked if he saw himself in politics from an early age. A physics major at the University of Nebraska, he worked in Washington, D.C., between his junior and senior years for the National Science Foundation, doing weapons research for the U.S. Army.
“That raised my interest in government,” he told the Girls State visitors. He later spent a summer as an intern in Washington in the office of the late Senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska, and he also worked as a law clerk for the U.S. Justice Department.
Stenberg told the Girls Staters that there are many different paths to elected office.
When asked what he likes best about being State Treasurer, he said he enjoyed returning unclaimed property to owners, helping families finance college through the NEST college savings program, and bringing financial literacy programs to Nebraska high school students. He said one surprise for him has been the amount of legal work he handles in the Treasurer’s Office, making good use of his combined business and law degree from Harvard.
He also was asked about his priorities in his remaining two and one-half years in office. He said he looks forward to introducing a new financial literacy program called Vault for fourth and fifth graders this fall and to implementing the Enable Savings Plan for individuals with disabilities in Nebraska and across the United States.
“I am sure there will be implementation challenges,” he said about Enable. “I will be working to raise the visibility of the program.”
Treasurer Stenberg congratulated the Girl Staters on their accomplishments, complimented them on their thoughtful questions, and encouraged them to consider careers in government. He also introduced two Treasurer’s Office staff members who are former Girls State delegates – Rachel Rezabek Biar, director of NEST and the Enable Savings Plan, a 1989 delegate from Dorchester, and Jana Miller Langemach, director of communications, a 1964 delegate from Newcastle.
In the Treasurer’s Office, Troy Reiners, director of the Nebraska Child Support Payment Center, is a former Cornhusker Boys State delegate, representing Raymond-Central High School in 1980. Interestingly, Reiners ran for State Treasurer in the Boys State mock election. Although he was unsuccessful in the mock election, he has now worked for the State Treasurer for 14 years.