LINCOLN — Robert K. Clements, who has a background in finance and deep roots in Cass County, was appointed Monday as the newest member of the Nebraska Legislature.
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced the 66-year-old banker and actuary from Elmwood as his pick to replace former State Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion. Clements will represent the 2nd Legislative District that covers all of Cass County and parts of Sarpy and Otoe Counties.
Clements was not among the 35 people who applied for the seat. Ricketts said his staff made informal phone calls to find the best person and moved quickly so the district was represented while the Nebraska Legislature is in session.
Clements came onto his radar last week, the governor said. The two did not know each other previously.
Ricketts said his applicant pool wasn’t limited to the people who applied, calling Clements the “ideal choice” given the state’s fiscal situation.
“With his experience, I’m 100 percent comfortable with him being in that role,” he said.
Clements took the oath of office from Chief Justice Mike Heavican during a ceremony at the State Capitol on Monday. He was joined by his wife, Peggy, and other family members, including his parents, and a handful of state senators.
Clements said he looks forward to learning a lot and thanked the governor for the opportunity to serve.
“I know the state is facing difficult budget decisions, but I believe my background and experience will be of service during this process,” he said.
He was unavailable for questions after the ceremony.
It’s unclear why Clements didn’t apply for the job, though Ricketts suggested it may have taken someone else pointing out why he’d be good for it.
“Nebraskans are humble people,” Ricketts said.
Asked about policy issues on which they might disagree, the governor said he and Clements talked more about the big picture, and that he expects there will be times they disagree.
Clements was described by family and friends as a solid conservative and Christian who has a knack for numbers.
He hasn’t served in elective office but is a former Cass County GOP chairman. His son Andy is the county party’s vice chair.
Clements grew up in the home of author Bess Streeter Aldrich in Elmwood. He and Peggy Clements have been married for 44 years and were high school sweethearts, both graduating from Elmwood High School.
Clements graduated in 1973 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a math major, with minors in economics and actuarial science. After graduation, he worked as an actuary at Business Men’s Assurance Co. in Kansas City, Missouri.
In 1978 he returned to Elmwood to work at the American Exchange Bank, following his father and grandfather, who ran the bank. Clements is the executive vice president of the bank. His twin brother, Rick, is the president of American Exchange Bank. Clements’ son Andy is a bank officer.
“He’s very good at numbers,” Peggy Clements said.
Clements attends Victory Church in north Omaha, said his son Tom. He serves as president of the Bess Streeter Aldrich Foundation, is a member of the Sons of the American Legion and is an alumnus of the Cornhusker Marching Band. He plays the trumpet.
Rob and Peggy Clements have five grown children and 10 grandchildren, with another on the way.
Clements’ great-great-grandfather John Clements homesteaded in Elmwood in 1868 and was one of the founders of the community when it was incorporated in 1886.
“We in Cass County are real happy it is a Cass Countian,” said Craig Buescher, chairman of the Cass County Republican Party. “The majority of the district is made up of Cass County.”
Lou Allgayer, a former county party chair and Cass County Board member, said he supports the governor’s selection and believes Clements will listen to the people of the district. Clements is Allgayer’s banker and is “just a good person,” Allgayer said.
Clements succeeds Kintner, who resigned last month following controversies involving his use of a state laptop to engage in cybersex with a woman he met online and his retweet of a Twitter post that appeared to make light of sexual assault.
Clements will finish out Kintner’s term. He will be eligible to run for the legislative seat in 2018 and again in 2022.
Kintner on his Facebook page hailed Clements as “an outstanding conservative and a strong Christian.”
“He knows the district and his business background will serve the district well,” he said. “I have known him for four years, and I have tremendous respect for him. He will be an outstanding senator.”