The news of his upcoming retirement came as quite a shock to those in Nebraska and Washington political circles, as well as, the citizens within his State. Still healthy and vibrant in his early 60’s (age 62), many expected that the Senator would run for at least one more six year term as the senior politician from the Cornhusker State. Johanns may have been a relative newcomer on Capital Hill but he was a familiar face in Washington D.C. having served as President George W. Bush’s Agriculture Secretary and was very influential in Nebraska politics serving as the Governor of the State for eight years and was Nebraska’s Lincoln capital 47th Mayor, also for eight years.
Like many Democrats in the late 1980’s Johanns changed party affiliations to Republican due mainly to the influence President Ronald Reagan had on the more conservative branch of the Democratic wing called “Reagan Democrats.”
The reasons for his retirement were cited by the Senator and his wife in a joint press statement issued on Monday, February 18th, ”Words are inadequate to fully express our appreciation for the friendship and support you have given to us over the past three decades. With everything in life, there is a time and a season. At the end of this term, we will have been in public service over 32 years. Between the two of us, we have been on the ballot for primary and general elections 16 times and we have served in eight offices. It is time to close this chapter of our lives.”
I suppose I could be a cynical writer and say I’m not buying these excuses for his leaving a job that was just beginning to grant him a significant amount of recognition and power on important committees such as finance and agriculture and believe that there is something more here to his walking away from it all. But, I’m not going to do that. I will take the high road and take Senator Johanns at his word and accept that it is time for him and his wife Stephanie to have some quality time and life together with family and close friends. After three-plus decades of public service and office holding, grueling campaigns and hard fought battles on the Capital floor of D.C., the Nebraska State House and Lincoln City Council it is time to sit back, reflect, write a book and love his wife and family without hinderance of any kind.
Happy retirement Senator.