Gov. Pete Ricketts has appointed Omaha preschool owner Theresa Thibodeau to fill the vacancy left by former Sen. Joni Craighead in the Nebraska Legislature.

Ricketts introduced Thibodeau during a news conference Thursday at the Capitol, and she was immediately sworn into office.

Thibodeau, 42, is a Republican. The Legislature is officially nonpartisan.

Ricketts said he appreciates Thibodeau's role as a job creator and her "real world experience" as an employer who understands the burdens of excessive government regulation.

In brief remarks, Thibodeau said she fully understands that "the good life doesn't come from Washington, D.C., or even from Lincoln," not from government but from people working together to solve problems using attributes like honesty and accountability.

Thibodeau said she would resist threats to personal freedom, support policies that promote jobs and investment, and "stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of law enforcement."

Although Thibodeau was not on the original list of applicants for the open position, Ricketts said she did apply later.  

Thibodeau is the owner of Primrose School of La Vista, which counts 48 employees. She graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a degree in psychology and worked in human resources programs in the private sector before opening the school in 2014.

The new senator also has political experience as the campaign manager for Aimee Melton, a member of the Omaha City Council who was re-elected earlier this year.

Thibodeau has informed Ricketts she plans to seek a four-year legislative term in central Omaha's 6th District next year. 

Ricketts said he interviewed four applicants for the position.

Craighead suddenly resigned last month just four days after she had announced plans to seek re-election to a second term, citing family and business concerns.

A Republican, Craighead held a leadership position in the nonpartisan Legislature as chairwoman of its Committee on Committees, which determines committee assignments.

Eleven people originally applied for the opening, including Machaela Cavanaugh, who already is a 2018 candidate for the legislative seat.

Cavanaugh is a Democrat and the daughter of former Rep. John Cavanaugh.  

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On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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