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Democrat Tammy Ward, 60, who runs a consulting business, wants to represent District 4 in northwest Lincoln on the City Council.

She faces Libertarian James Herrold in Tuesday's general election. Reporter Riley Johnson recently interviewed Ward about her behind-the-scenes work in government and decision to run for office.

Growing up: Ward was the youngest of four kids raised on her family's farm near Geneva. Her business teacher in high school encouraged her to get involved in Future Business Leaders of America, which empowered Ward, she said. She came to Lincoln to study business at the University of Nebraska and stayed. She's worked in various levels of government ranging from the mayor's office to the U.S. Senate.

Family: Ward is single and does not have any children. She treasures her role as a "professional aunt," responsible for spoiling her nieces and nephews and their children. After being asked by several people locally to seek a seat on the City Council, Ward went back to the farm and spoke to her siblings about what she should do. "Once I was in, I was all in," she said.

Politics: Though Ward's great-grandfather, John W. Ward, was a state senator, she never thought she'd run for office, she said. Having the political spotlight on her still doesn't feel comfortable for Ward, who made a career working for elected officials "behind the curtain." 

Her government jobs have required her to give public presentations, but she was working on behalf of political bosses she believed in, she said.

"I learned early on," Ward said, "that you can't have good public policy without the politics. And if you have (good) politics, you can affect good public policy." 

Why are you running: Her career in public service has deepened her passion for helping improve people's lives, she said, so when she was asked to consider representing the district she's lived in and worked in as a South Salt Creek neighborhood activist, she believed it was the right time. 

Key priorities: She wants to continue to propel the city's economic growth because she believes it will help lower housing costs and attract young professionals to the city, she said. 

"I think we need to do more of what we're doing," she said. "We need to beef up our workforce development efforts." 

Ward has announced her intention to convene a summit of city, university and business leaders to develop strategies to attract and retain skilled workers in Lincoln, where unemployment is lower than the national average but employers report hiring problems. 

Defining moment: She'll never forget the time she was at a salon shortly after the Affordable Care Act became law. Her longtime hairdresser said to her, "I just want to thank you and your boss (Sen. Ben Nelson)." The woman, now in her 50s, had been uninsured for most of her adult life and put off care for several medical issues because she couldn't afford it, Ward said. Her hairdresser's comments were deeply meaningful to Ward, who had heard from opponents of the health care reform bill. "Despite all the naysaying," Ward said, "that's why I did what I did."

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The city's role in development: Public-private partnership that involves those affected by a project is key to development, Ward said. 

While working on the development of a new outpatient clinic for veterans on Lincoln's VA campus near 70th and O streets, Ward learned some neighbors worried about the "blighted" designation used to help developers get tax-increment financing, or TIF, she said.

"Blighted doesn't mean bad all the time," she said.

She believes TIF projects require education and should always get a close look, but she said she trusts government officials to determine the best and most appropriate uses of this urban renewal tool.

Why vote for her: Ward said her relationships built in Lincoln over three decades in public service best suit her to represent District 4 on the City Council. Her belief in the importance of public-private partnerships and commitment to bipartisanship will help her accomplish policy goals, she said. "Just being ready to step in and start a job like City Council, I would be really honored to do it," she said.

Voter's Guide: City Council Q&As

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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