After an expensive, failed bid to boost Mayor Jim Suttle to a second term, Omaha's fire union needs to repair a fractured relationship with a mayor-elect it opposed, the union's president says.
“Initially, maybe you start with some real, honest discussions upfront,” fire union President Steve LeClair said. “It's no secret we were skeptical of her.”
Jean Stothert won election as Omaha's mayor Tuesday with the support of neither the fire nor police union, something that hasn't happened in Omaha politics since P.J. Morgan did it in 1989.
Suttle's partnership with the fire union is well-documented — union and Fire Department officials were among the attendees at Suttle's election night party at the firefighters union hall. During the campaign, the fire union's political committee sent out mailers attacking Stothert and praising Suttle.
The police union blanketed city mailboxes and airwaves with criticism of Stothert. The union pushed the attorney general and county attorney to investigate complaints about Stothert's use of open meetings laws.
Now both unions will work with a mayor who wants to recapture the authority to negotiate labor agreements.
Stothert seemed to extend an olive branch to Omaha firefighters and police officers on Tuesday night, while noting the “competitive relationship” between herself and union leaders.
LeClair congratulated Stothert on her victory, and acknowledged his union “knew it was an uphill battle” to win the election.
Police union head Sgt. John Wells said he hopes the incoming administration is sincere about its olive branch.
“We will work with anybody. We've worked with anyone in the past,” he said.
The police union will soon return to the table to discuss a new labor contract. Before long, the fire union will do the same.
“There is a time for campaigning, and that time is over,” LeClair said. “There is a time for governing, and that time is coming now.”
“It's a process. And there's nothing more beautiful than the democratic process,” he said.
Contact the writer: