LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts moved quickly to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, naming a local banker to that post on Wednesday.
Mike Jacobson, 68, is president, founder and CEO of NebraskaLand Bank in North Platte, growing that locally owned bank to $850 million in assets.
Ricketts said he interviewed five candidates, and with the 60-day session already half over, it was important that he fill the vacancy quickly.
Groene resigned effective Monday after allegations surfaced that he had taken photographs of a female staffer that she described as “objectifying and demeaning.”
The governor said he was impressed that Jacobson embodied the “American dream.”
“Most importantly, he’s a conservative who will reflect the values of District 42,” Ricketts said.
Jacobson in involved in several North Platte civic groups, including the local airport authority and industrial development corporation. He was part of a North Platte community redevelopment authority that recently supported the use of tax increment financing for a proposed, $300-million meatpacking plant called Sustainable Beef.
“I really care about what’s going on in Nebraska and what the future holds,” Jacobson said at a morning press conference, with his wife, Julie, at his side.
He said that, like Groene, he is a registered Republican and a “very strong conservative.”
‘A different style’
“I probably have a little bit different style,” Jacobson told reporters.
Groene, 66, earned a reputation as a fiery populist who could sometimes be demeaning and insulting. On the floor of the Legislature on Wednesday, Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen said it was unfortunate that the “insults and slurs” uttered by Groene had been allowed so long.
Jacobson is a native of Sutton, Nebraska, who worked as an agriculture teacher in Red Cloud and Shickley before entering the banking industry. He worked in Hastings and Lincoln before moving to North Platte. He and his wife have two adopted children, including Mary Jacobson, who works as a lobbyist in Lincoln.
Three candidates already filed
Jacobson said he had considered filing to run for District 42 post but had put it on the back burner last fall to focus on a possible acquisition by his bank. That issue has been resolved, he said, and he will file for election to the post. Groene was barred from running for re-election in 2022 by term limits.
Three candidates from North Platte have already filed for that seat: Chris Bruns, Mel McNea and Brenda Fourtner.
The Nebraska State Patrol has opened an investigation into whether any laws were broken when Groene, 66, took photographs of a former aide without her consent.
Groene, an often outspoken legislator, announced his decision to resign Friday afternoon, soon after the allegations were reported that he took inappropriate photos of the staffer, Kristina Konecko.
Legislators probe allegations
Groene resigned effective at 11:59 p.m. Monday. He has denied that the photos were sexual in nature. But he has also apologized for taking them without the permission of Konecko, who worked as his legislative aide on and off for six years.
In addition to the State Patrol investigation, three state senators have been appointed to a special committee to handle a separate probe into the allegations: Sens. Tom Briese, John Arch and Anna Wishart. If they find evidence of a criminal act, they will forward that to the Patrol and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, said State Sen. Dan Hughes, chairman of the Legislature’s Executive Board.
Several state senators have called for changes in the Legislature’s process for reporting and investigating workplace harassment complaints.
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