LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen appointed on Wednesday fellow Republican and former State Board of Education member Fred Meyer to fill a vacant legislative seat representing eight central Nebraska counties.
Meyer, of St. Paul, will finish the term of former state Sen. Tom Briese, who vacated the seat in October after Pillen tapped him to fill the vacant post of state treasurer.
Meyer, who owns and operates a cattle farm near St. Paul, served on the Education Board from 1999 to 2010.
Pillen said during a news conference to announce the appointment that Meyer assured him he will only serve the remainder of Briese’s term, which runs through the end of 2024, and not seek election to the upcoming term. Pillen said that was important to him, because other candidates have already launched campaigns for the seat.
Neither the governor nor Meyer will be endorsing anyone running for the seat in 2024, Pillen said.
“We believe that the people of District 41 are best served to find out who works the hardest, who will be able to earn the seat,” he said.
One of Pillen’s first actions after being elected governor last November was to appoint his predecessor, outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts, to Nebraska’s U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Ben Sasse. Sasse left the Senate only two years into his second term to become president of the University of Florida.
The move was roundly criticized by Democrats and even some Republicans who said the appointment gave the appearance of a pay-to-play deal. Pillen was elected in large part because of Ricketts’ backing, which included more than $1 million of his own money to political actions committees supporting Pillen and directly to his campaign.
Ricketts announced this summer that he’ll seek election to the U.S. Senate seat in a special election next year.