Colten Zamrzla, a 25-year-old Republican, is a commercial insurance agent. He's running against District 3 incumbent City Councilwoman Jane Raybould in the May 7 city election. Reporter Nancy Hicks interviewed Zamrzla after the primary election.
Campaign slogan: “Unusual name; great ideas.”
About that name: Zamrzla — it’s pronounced "zammer" (like hammer), plus sill-a (like the end of Ursula, with emphasis on the last syllable). It’s Czech and is the conjugated form of frozen. “It means froze, as in my browser froze.”
Zamrzla is a fifth-generation American whose ancestors homesteaded in Wilson, Kansas.
He uses his first name for his campaign committee and signs — “Colten for Council.”
Growing up: Zamrzla grew up in Kearney, where his first job was delivering the newspaper every day after school and Saturday mornings at 4 a.m.
He also detasseled, “hard work,” for two years, saving up enough money to buy his first car — a 2001 silver Mitsubishi Eclipse — that he eventually sold but still sees around Lincoln.
Zamrzla also started working at a local insurance agency in high school. His original plan was to be a lifeguard. But he weighed the options — being “a glorified babysitter” or working in an air-conditioned office.
“I knew nothing about insurance, but I liked air-conditioning. I tried it out and loved it.”
That job led to his current job, working at Copple Insurance Agency, which focuses on property and casualty insurance for businesses and nonprofits.
Zamrzla was a competitive swimmer as a child and in high school. He made it to state three out of four years. He learned how to swim at age 3 because his parents wanted him to be safe in the water. But Zamrzla was a fish and at 4 was swimming competitively.
Running for office: Zamrzla has been heavily involved with community groups — the Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Independent Business Association, CASA of Lancaster County and other professional associations, so he was tuned-in to what was happening.
When a friend, Brayden McLaughlin, who ran unsuccessfully for a citywide council seat two years ago, decided not to run, Zamrzla stepped up.
McLaughlin asked Zamrzla to run. “And bravely or naively I said 'Yes.'”
Zamrzla says he is a man of science, a man of logic and reason, but not too proud to be proven wrong.
Family life: Zamrzla married in 2017 and his wife Hanna, also from Kearney, is an English teacher and debate coach at Northeast High School. To the inevitable question about who wins arguments at home, he says “I don’t win, but I’m getting good at it.”
Campaign lessons: The hardest thing about campaigning is keeping up, with a job and with the barrage of events and inquiries related to the campaign.
“I had been warned that campaigning is time-consuming. But it was still shocking. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, for sure.”
But Zamrzla likes meeting people and appreciates the many people who have been nice to a young man at their door. When he was collecting signatures required to file for the office, one couple invited him in, and when they discovered he didn’t have a clipboard, found one in their house for him.
Learning experience: College was a transformational experience. Zamrzla started at Southeast Community College to save money, then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he earned a degree in finance in four years.
Zamrzla said he had a “very insular mindset,” and college, where he met people from all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences, and where he lived on his own, was a learning experience.
"It showed me my privileges coming from a middle-class family and not wanting for anything" — he said of the times he was “stuck eating ramen and party pizza because that is all you can afford. It just opened my eyes to the real needs of people and what people are like and the struggles people face.”
Role of government: “I think government needs to be a good steward of our tax dollars, regardless of its size or shape.
“Personally, I think a more limited government is a good idea. A government that can give you everything you want can also take it away. Government should provide basic public services, public safety ... and be a safety net for those that truly need the help.
“On the local level, the real focus should be infrastructure, public safety and basic common goods — that would be the parks, conservation efforts.”
Why vote for him: “I’ve chosen Lincoln as my home. It’s where I’m building a business and starting a family. I plan to be here for the next 50 years. I see this run as an investment in our future, in Lincoln’s future.”