Colby Coash

Sen. Colby Coash is completing his second and last term representing District 27 in southwest Lincoln. Here, he watches the voting board as the Legislature votes to shelve Medicaid expansion on March 29.

Act I is ending, and Colby Coash will soon take a bow.

The term-limited state senator from southwest Lincoln — perhaps the only Nebraska lawmaker with his own Internet Movie Database page — is wrapping up what could be his final session in the Legislature.

That doesn't mean he'll leave the public stage for good.

A 40-year-old Republican, Coash says he is committed to Lincoln, and would consider running for City Council or even mayor.

"Serving appeals to me," he said last week in his office. "Campaigning does not. ... The timing has to be right."

Lincoln's three at-large City Council seats come open next year, followed by the council's four district-specific seats in 2019, the same year Mayor Chris Beutler will be completing his third term.

Coash won't be tied to his current district by then: While he likes southwest Lincoln, leaving the Legislature means he can move anywhere in the city if he chooses.

It's much to consider for a man who clinched his legislative seat by defeating then-City Council President Dan Marvin by 79 votes in 2008.

Coash ran that race by scooter, riding a fold-up Razor door-to-door in the heavily Democratic district.

"No one gave him a chance. He had a fundraiser at the Nebraska Club that lost money," his former campaign manager, Sen. John Murante of Gretna, joked during a sendoff on the legislative floor Wednesday.

Eight years later, Coash will leave the statehouse not as an underdog, but an established leader who helped direct one of the Legislature's most dramatic episodes.

His championing of last year's conservative movement to abolish the death penalty fits with his career-long focus on serving vulnerable people, he said.

That also includes initiatives to benefit children from unstable homes, the elderly, people with developmental disabilities, even corrections officers.

His district is home to three state prisons, the Lincoln Regional Center and the Lancaster County jail, and Coash said he's kept those workers in mind when making legislative decisions.

"Those corrections officers and I have found an open communication," he said.

Coash also spearheaded measures that revamped nightlife in downtown Lincoln: extending the closing time for Nebraska bars from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m with local approval, and making The Railyard possible by allowing cities to establish entertainment districts with drinking in outdoor common areas.

"I'm proud of the things I was able to get done," he said.

This summer and fall, he will continue his active roles on special investigative committees monitoring Nebraska's prison system and developmental disability services. He also plans to work with the Legislature's Judiciary Committee on a study of court-ordered custody for people with developmental disabilities.

"I'm concerned about the due process rights for those people," he said.

His focus on improving human services will continue in his private life — now with more time for personal pursuits.

That includes advising social services and health care providers on their management practices through his consulting firm, CoashAMPED, and continuing to help build a related startup, AMPT, which sells employee engagement software.

He can also boost his acting career, perhaps adding a few more roles to the 13 credits he lists on imdb.com.

And he'll have more time with his wife, Rhonda, and their 6-year-old son, Cole, who was born on the final day of his dad's first legislative session.

"He doesn't know anything other than me working here."

While the work can be frustrating — Coash says the level of discourse has grown "less and less substantive" — he acknowledges his path might be different if he wasn't limited to two consecutive terms in the Legislature. 

"If they weren't kicking me out, I'd probably be running for re-election."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @zachamiLJS.


Assistant city editor

Zach Pluhacek is an assistant city editor.

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