Former State Sen. Don Dworak remembered as a doer

September 20, 2018

LINCOLN — As a state senator, Don Dworak was a tough guy to pigeonhole.

He was a Republican delegate for Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980, but he was also was a political ally of Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers in opposing the death penalty.

In 1978, he switched parties to run as a Democrat against then-incumbent GOP Gov. Charlie Thone, then dropped out of the race after meeting Bob Kerrey, the Democrat who went on defeat Thone.

“He could work with, and be great friends with, people of different political stripes,” said Dworak’s son, Tony. “They enjoyed each other and could get a lot done for Nebraska. He said it’s a shame that the partisanship has increased so much these days.”

Don Dworak died on Monday at a Columbus hospital after battling several health issues. He was 83.

He and his wife, Judy, built a successful insurance business in Columbus. He served two four-year terms in the Nebraska Legislature beginning in 1975, and rose to chair the Miscellaneous Subjects Committee, now known as General Affairs.

Dworak was an environmentalist and a conservationist, sponsoring the bill to create a state habitat stamp to raise funds for public wildlife areas.

He also pushed for humane treatment of prison inmates.

Rich Lombardi, a Lincoln lobbyist who worked as a research aide for Dworak in the Legislature, said the senator was guided by values more than politics. “He was very much a problem solver,” Lombardi said.

Dworak served two years as state economic development director under Kerrey, and also served on the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.

Dworak also is survived by another son, Don, and a sister, Mary.

Funeral services are scheduled Friday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Isidore’s Catholic Church in Columbus.

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