Nebraska governor picks replacement for senator who resigned

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Wednesday appointed a conservative banker to replace former state Sen. Mike Groene, who resigned after admitting that he took photos of a legislative staffer without her knowledge.

Newly appointed state Sen. Mike Jacobson will serve the rest of Groene’s term and seek election to the seat in November. Jacobson was one of five applicants Ricketts interviewed, including three declared candidates for the seat.

“Mike is a conservative who will reflect the values of the people in District 42,” Ricketts said at a news conference where Jacobson was sworn into office.

Jacobson is the founder and principal shareholder of NebraskaLand Bank in North Platte, which opened in 1998 and now has $850 million in assets, with branches in Kearney and Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Jacobson described himself as a fiscal and social conservative who opposes tax increases and abortion. But he said his style would differ from the blunt-spoken Groene, who often clashed with political opponents and once told a fellow lawmaker to “shut up” because he said she was heckling him.

The Nebraska State Patrol is now investigating Groene, who also dropped out of the race for a University of Nebraska Board of Regents seat. Patrol spokesman Cody Thomas said the agency will present its findings to the Nebraska attorney general once the probe is complete.

Groene resigned after admitting that he took photos of a woman who worked in his legislative office without her knowledge. The woman, Kristina Konecko, filed a complaint alleging that some of the photos contained zoomed-in close-ups of her body parts with explicit subject lines.

Groene has denied those allegations, saying none of his photos were sexual in nature or focused on any specific parts of her body. He said he only took harmless images of staffers, visitors and family members in his office. Legislative information technology staffers also reviewed Groene’s laptop and cellphone and said they found no evidence that Groene forwarded the photos to anyone else.

Jacobson, who briefly worked as an agriculture teacher in Red Cloud and Shickley, said he sees himself as a “team builder” who believes strongly in entrepreneurship. Jacobson, 68, grew up in Sutton, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has served in a variety of community groups. He began his banking career in Hastings in 1980 and moved to Lincoln for a banking management job in 1984. He relocated to North Platte in 1994.

He’s also well-connected politically as a past chairman of Nebraska Bankers Association, and already knows many current state lawmakers. He and his wife, Julie, have two adopted children, including one who works as a lobbyist in Lincoln.

“I see this as an opportunity to give back and serve and promote conservative values,” Jacobson said, pledging to “work together with my colleagues to make Nebraska an even better place to live and work.”

Legislative District 42 includes a large chunk of rural, west-central Nebraska, including the city of North Platte and surrounding Lincoln County, plus all of Hooker, Thomas, McPherson and Logan counties and most of Perkins County.

Three other North Platte candidates are running for the seat: Lincoln County Commissioner Chris Bruns, hospital executive Mel McNea, and Brenda Fourtner, who serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


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