Governor-elect Ricketts Announces Appointments

Governor-elect Pete Ricketts announced the appointment of Dr. Joseph Acierno as Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health. Dr. Acierno will also serve as the Acting CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) until a full-time replacement is named following a nationwide job search. Also appointed was John Hilgert as Director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Director of the Division of Veterans Homes. Along with the two appointments, Ricketts announced that Jodi Fenner would continue her service to the Division of Developmental Disabilities as Acting Director.


Dr. Acierno will take over as Acting CEO of DHHS effective December 20th. All other announcements are effective January 8th.




John Hilgert of Omaha has served as Agency Director for the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs since 2001, and as Division Director of the Division of Veterans Homes for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services since 2007.


In 1995, then Governor Ben Nelson appointed Hilgert to District 7 in the Unicameral. Hilgert was subsequently elected in 1996 and reelected in 2000. From 1992-2001, he served in a variety of roles for Catholic Charities of Omaha including Senior Director of Government Relations and Director of Development.


In 1992, Hilgert departed from the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps at the rank of Captain after serving in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq.


Hilgert holds a J.D. from Creighton University School of Law and a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is Vice President of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, a Life Member of the American Legion South Omaha Post No. 331, a Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1580, a Life Member of the Disabled American Veterans & AMVETS Post 25, and a Member of the Cornhusker Boys’ State Board of Directors.


“As I traveled Nebraska, I heard from numerous veterans who praised John’s work as leader on veterans’ issues,” said Governor-elect Pete Ricketts. “I look forward to working with him to ensure that Nebraska is a welcoming place where our veterans can return to live and work.”




Dr. Joseph Acierno of Omaha has served as Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services since 2013.


Before assuming his current position, Acierno served as Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Division of Public Health from 2007-2013 and as legal counsel from 2006-2007. He holds a Doctor of Medicine, Juris Doctor, and Bachelor of Science from Creighton University.


“Dr. Acierno’s medical and legal background make him well-suited to serve as Chief Medical Officer and to lead the Division of Public Health,” said Governor-elect Pete Ricketts. “His willingness to serve as interim CEO will ensure the department has a steady hand to guide it while my administration focuses on finding a transformational CEO to lead the agency.”


Ricketts selects David Schnoor of Scribner for LD15 Appointment

At the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Annual Convention Banquet, Governor-elect Pete Ricketts announced the selection of David A. Schnoor, a veteran and cattleman from Scribner, to fill the District 15 legislative seat vacancy.


Schnoor will be sworn into office at a ceremony with Secretary of State John Gale, Governor Dave Heineman, and Governor-elect Pete Ricketts at 1:30pm today in the Governor’s Hearing Room at the Nebraska State Capitol.


“It is an honor to have the opportunity to continue to serve my state and country in this new capacity as the next state senator from Dodge County,” said David Schnoor of Scribner. “I look forward to working with Governor-elect Ricketts to provide meaningful property tax relief, boost career and vocational training at our schools, and create jobs in our rural communities.


“David’s military service and business-minded ag background set him apart in the field of applicants,” said Governor-elect Pete Ricketts. “His broad talents and strong values have made him a leader in his community, and his district can count on him to champion their priorities in the Nebraska Unicameral.”


Schnoor, 52, operates a farm near Scribner with his family and owns and operates Schnoor Feedyard, a commercial cattle feeding operation. From 1980 to 2000, he served in the United States Air Force, retiring at the rank of Master Sergeant.  During this time, Schnoor served overseas in Panama, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Haiti where he conducted and supported combat operations. He was awarded a Bronze Star with a “V” device for Valor during the rescue of a downed helicopter with sensitive cargo on board in Panama.


Schnoor is a graduate of Scribner High School and holds two Associate Degrees from the Community College of the Air Force at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.


Schnoor currently serves as President of the Scribner-Snyder School Board, as Sergeant at Arms for American Legion Scribner Post 121, and as a Director on the Board of the Dodge County Cattlemen. He is a Past President of the Dodge County Cattlemen, Past Commander of the Scribner Legion, and Past Commander of the Dodge County Legion. He is also a member of the Columbus Post 84 Legion Riders, Snyder Veterans of Foreign Wars, Fremont Alliance Church, Scribner Community Improvement Program, and the Scribner Area Chamber. Schnoor and his wife Nickie have been married for 11 years and have 6 children.


Legislative District 15 includes all of Dodge County in Northeast Nebraska. Schnoor’s appointment lasts through January 3, 2017, and he is eligible for election to a 4-year term in November 2016. This appointment fills a vacancy created by State Senator Charlie Janssen’s resignation on December 11, 2014 in anticipation of his swearing in as Nebraska State Auditor on January 8, 2015.


Ricketts Releases Fundraising Totals

Pete Ricketts announced today that he has raised $419,215.00 for the 20-day reporting period ending October 20, 2014. The campaign ends the period with $669,020.70 cash on hand.


“I am proud to have the support of so many Nebraskans across the state who agree with our message and our vision,” Ricketts said.  “Thanks to their generosity, we’re in a strong position to continue to make our case for new growth in the state and responsible reform in state government.”


Ricketts’ fundraising report comes on the same day that the New York Times/CBS News/YouGov announced their latest survey results in the Nebraska governor’s race.  The latest survey, conducted Oct. 16 – 23, finds Ricketts leading his Democratic opponent Chuck Hassebrook 55% – 35%. Results of the survey can be found at


Law Enforcement Organizations Endorse Ricketts

The Nebraska State Troopers Association, the Nebraska Conservation Officers, and the State Law Enforcement Bargaining Council today endorsed Pete Ricketts’ bid for governor.


“It is an honor today to be able to announce the support of the State Troopers Association of Nebraska and the State Law Enforcement Bargaining Council for Pete Ricketts as Governor,” said Brian Petersen, President of the State Troopers Association of Nebraska and the State Law Enforcement Bargaining Council which includes troopers from the Nebraska State Patrol and Conservation Officers from Nebraska Game and Parks. “Mr. Ricketts has taken time to study the issues related to state law enforcement and what makes a law-enforcement officer most effective in best serving the citizens of the state.”


“One of the primary missions of state government is to protect the safety of our citizens,” Ricketts said. “Nebraska’s State Troopers and Conservation Officers do that each and every day, putting their own safety at risk.  They deserve our support.”


At a press conference today with Peterson in Omaha, Ricketts outlined his support for the protection of officers’ collective bargaining rights, pension plans, and technology and equipment needs.  He also  committed to establishing open lines of communication with the groups and ensuring them a seat at the table in state policy discussions.


Hassebrook and Ricketts Have Second Debate

Gubernatorial candidates Chuck Hassebrook and Pete Ricketts met in Lincoln for their second debate, and the differences between the two couldn’t be clearer.

“Pete continues to throw out typical partisan attacks and push the same old recycled ideas that we’ve heard from him and every other extremist, out of touch politician for years. Middle class Nebraskans can’t trust Pete to work for them when his track record works against them,” said Hassebrook.

“Governor of Nebraska isn’t an entry-level or a part-time job. We need a proven leader who can effectively manage government and oversee state agencies – and that’s Chuck Hassebrook,” said Hassebrook Communications Director Meg Mandy.

Hassebrook Asks Opponent to Debate in Omaha

Candidate for Governor Chuck Hassebrook sent his opponent a letter yesterday, asking him to agree to a debate in Omaha.

“This is a critical election, and Nebraska voters should be educated about the candidates and our stances on the issues that are important to them. There is no better way to do that than to engage in meaningful debate, that can be broadcast to reach as many voters as possible,” said Hassebrook.

According to the letter, the Omaha Press Club, League of Women Voters, and WOWT reached out to both campaigns in July with an offer to host a debate in Nebraska’s largest city in late October. Hassebrook accepted right away, but Ricketts delayed for weeks, ultimately not responding until September that he declined, citing “scheduling conflicts.”

Hassebrook also personally reached out in July to mutually plan a series of debates and town halls throughout the state, which Ricketts also declined, again citing scheduling conflicts.

In the letter sent to Mr. Ricketts yesterday, Hassebrook proposed the debate be held using the rules and location first proposed to them by the Omaha Press Club: Thursday, October 23rd from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“Priority one for any candidate should always be to share their vision for our future with Nebraska voters. A debate in our biggest city and largest media market is a great way to do that. Mr. Ricketts continues to duck Chuck’s proposal for joint appearances. What is he so afraid of?,” said Communications Director Meg Mandy.

So far there has only been one debate, hosted by the Omaha World-Herald on Labor Day at the Nebraska State Fair. The second debate is scheduled for next Thursday, October 2 at the NET studios in Lincoln.

Chuck Hassebrook

Chuck Hassebrook


Ricketts Announces Tax Reform Plan

Pete Ricketts, GOP nominee for governor, today released his plan for property tax reform that benefits all Nebraskans.


“While politicians have talked about property tax relief for years, what’s needed is real-world reform,” Ricketts said. “Working with the Legislature to significantly lower the property tax burden on our farmers and ranchers, small business owners and working families will be my top priority as governor.”


“I appreciate Pete’s eagerness to work with the Legislature on this crucial issue,” said Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse.  “It doesn’t matter if you’re in Auburn or Alliance, property taxes are too high and getting higher.  Pete’s plan recognizes this is a dire situation that deserves our immediate attention and focus.”


“Pete’s plan to increase property tax credits, address state mandates on counties, lower ag land valuations from 75% to 65 % of market value, and place caps on valuation increases is an excellent, Nebraska common sense approach to much needed property tax relief,” said Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege. “I am happy to endorse this idea.  I believe this effort will benefit every citizen in our state.”


“Pete’s plan recognizes the number one barrier to agricultural growth in our state: skyrocketing property taxes,” said Mark McHargue, 1st Vice President of the Nebraska Farm Bureau.  “We are pleased that Pete understands the urgency of this issue, has created a plan to address it, and is willing to make it his top priority.”


“Pete is listening to Nebraskans. Property taxes are too high and reform is needed sooner rather than later,” said Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion. “Real reform won’t happen without leadership from the governor’s office, and I look forward to working with Pete on this pressing matter in the upcoming session.”


“Increasing property taxes are straining taxpayers, while increasing state mandates are straining county budgets,” said Christian Ohl, Madison County Commissioner.  “It’s refreshing to know that Pete understands the severity of both problems and the need to directly address them in order to achieve lasting property tax reform.”


“Pete knows Nebraskans want property tax reform because he’s been listening to them tell him about it for a year,” said Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala.  “Skyrocketing property taxes are hurting our ag producers and making us less competitive.  We need real reform, and Pete is the right leader for the job.”


The Ricketts Property Tax Reform plan centers on enhancing the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund, reducing costly state mandates on counties, lowering ag land valuations from 75 percent to 65 percent of market value, and placing a cap on how quickly valuations can increase.  The plan in its entirety can be found at


Poll Shows Ricketts in the Lead

A 2014 Battleground Tracker poll commissioned by The New York Times, CBS News, and YouGov shows Pete Ricketts with a 50 percent to 32 percent lead over his opponent Chuck Hassebrook in the Nebraska governor’s race.


“Pete’s message of new growth and responsible reform is having an impact,” said Ricketts campaign manager Matt Miltenberger. “We’ll continue working hard across the state to promote Pete’s plans for a brighter future for Nebraska families and communities.”


You can view the poll at  Previous Battleground Tracker polling, conducted in July, showed Ricketts with a lead of eight percentage points.


Ricketts Responds to Secretary of State Decision

The Ricketts campaign today responded to Secretary of State John Gale’s decision to place Mike Foley’s name on the ballot as Ricketts’ running mate for lieutenant governor.


“We feel this is a sound decision,” said Ricketts campaign manager Matt Miltenberger.  “The State’s Constitution is clear: Nebraskans have given gubernatorial candidates the right to designate their running mates.   In this case, the ballot can now be certified in a manner that accurately reflects the choices before Nebraska voters.”


Ricketts Chooses New Running Mate

Pete Ricketts this afternoon announced State Auditor Mike Foley as his running mate, following the resignation of Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann earlier today.


“Mike Foley is a principled, independent, and reform-minded advocate for the people of Nebraska,” Ricketts said.  “As auditor, he’s worked tirelessly to protect Nebraska taxpayers.  As a state senator, he was a fearless champion of the unborn and our state’s most vulnerable citizens.  Mike has an unyielding commitment to making state government work better for all Nebraskans.”


“Not long ago, we were competitors.  Today, I am proud to say we are teammates.  Together, we will deliver a message of new growth and responsible reform that helps shape a brighter future for families and communities across our state.”


%d bloggers like this: