Jim Smith resigns as senator; Ricketts will leave seat open
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion has resigned from the Legislature to lead the statewide economic growth initiative launched two months ago with formation of Blueprint Nebraska, a coalition of business and education interests.
Smith, who has been a legislative leader on tax and transportation policy, will be the organization’s first executive director, spearheading what will be a yearlong effort to map out “a collective approach to grow our state.”
“This is not going to be a study that sits on a shelf,” Smith said during an interview at the Capitol. “We’ve got all the right people involved. There will be tangible results. I have no doubt.”
Smith leaves the Legislature with less than six months remaining in his second and final four-year term and with a successor due to be elected in November.
Since the Legislature is not scheduled to be back in session before January, Gov. Pete Ricketts has chosen to leave the seat open until voters fill it with their candidate.
“The election is in November and the governor believes the people of the district should decide the next senator,” Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage said.
“My staff will remain here to respond to constituents,” Smith said.
In announcing Smith’s appointment, a news release from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry pointed to his background in small and large business environments, as well as community service on nonprofit boards.
The mission of Blueprint Nebraska will be to “establish a comprehensive and proactive plan to stimulate the state’s economic growth, competitiveness and prosperity, while building on its current strengths,” according to the statement.
On Blueprint Nebraska’s broad agenda are assessments of manufacturing, agriculture, health care, education, workforce, taxation and incentives, housing, community vitality, technology and innovation.
Smith said he will emphasize “a collective approach to grow our state.”
The organization’s efforts “will not interfere with or compete with anything the Legislature is doing,” Smith said. “We’ll be able to supplement and aid legislators in efforts to grow our economy.”
Smith said he’s determined to “allow the process to play out (without) anyone jumping to the end with an expected outcome.”
A comprehensive report will be issued in 12 to 14 months, he said.
“It’s not my process,” he said. “It’s the state’s process.”
“We will provide a growth map,” Smith said, “determining how do we make this a great place to live and raise a family.”