Former state Sen. Lavon Heidemann -- just elected to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in November -- was appointed Nebraska's lieutenant governor Wednesday, less than two weeks after Rick Sheehy resigned the post amid a scandal involving his state cellphone.
Gov. Dave Heineman made the announcement, calling Heidemann "a proven, dedicated public servant for the citizens of Nebraska."
"He will complete this term as lieutenant governor with integrity, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to move Nebraska forward.
"This is a man I respect. I know him very, very well," Heineman said. "I knew I could count on him to give me the best advice on a wide variety of issues."
Heineman will appoint someone to replace Heidemann on the Board of Regents.
Heidemann, 54, farms near Elk Creek. He was in the Legislature from 2005 to early 2013, when he left office because of term limits. He was chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Heidemann said he regretted leaving the regents job but was looking forward to his new post.
"The university means a lot to me," he said. "I am excited for this opportunity to serve the people of Nebraska. Public service is something in which I believe deeply. I am looking forward to my time traveling our state, meeting with our citizens, visiting our businesses."
Heineman said earlier he was looking for a lieutenant governor who would not run for governor in 2014. Sheehy long ago declared his intention to run for governor and had Heineman's endorsement. But by all indications, Sheehy is in the process of shutting down his campaign.
Sheehy resigned Feb. 2 after it was revealed he had made thousands of late-night calls to women other than his wife on his state cellphone.
By choosing a replacement who will not run for governor, Heineman said he would be trying to not give any one person an advantage in the 2014 race. At this stage of the game, he said, he has a number of friends who are going to run and taking sides is not the best way to go.
The lieutenant governor presides over the Legislature, is director of homeland security for the state and chairman of the Nebraska Information Technology Commission and attends events on behalf of the governor.
The job pays $75,000 per year.
Heidemann was elected to the Elk Creek school board in 1996, where he served until he was elected to the Legislature. Previously, he was a general foreman for a drilling company in Anchorage, Alaska, from 1983 to 1995. He has been active with a number of organizations, including the Midwest Council of State Governments, Agriculture Builders of Nebraska, Nebraska Cattlemen, Pawnee County Farm Bureau, the Southeast Nebraska Feeders and Breeders and the Elk Creek Young Men’s Club.
Among those who also had been rumored to be in the running for the job were former state Sens. Chris Langemeier of Schuyler, Tony Fulton of Lincoln and Phil Erdman, formerly of Bayard; Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders; and Kerry Winterer, CEO of the state Department of Health and Human Services.