Former Scottsbluff mayor recalls years of service
SCOTTSBLUFF — Randy Meininger, who spent the last 12 years in public service, is looking forward to getting back to life outside of politics.
Randy’s family was farming south of Gering when he graduated from Gering High School in 1978.
For the next year, he worked at the county airport, developing an interest in aviation and earning his pilot’s license.
“During that time we were providing the airplane for air ambulance service,” Meininger said. “The medical end of things always intrigued me, so after about a year I found that becoming an emergency medical technician and paramedic was a better route. But I still don’t regret becoming a pilot.”
His background as a paramedic led him to Valley Ambulance Services in Scottsbluff, where he’s the owner. It was there where he drew the attention of some other fellow business owners.
“They asked me if public service was something I’d considered or something I might find interesting,” Meininger said. “It kind of intrigued me a little bit because the community’s leaders are always looking for others to mentor for leadership.”
Randy had been appointed to some state boards in the medical industry, but his first run for elected office was in 2006 for a seat on the Scottsbluff City Council.
“Not only was I elected to the council, but also mayor at the same time,” he said. “At first I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.”
One of the primary leaders that advised Randy along the way was former Scottsbluff Mayor Don Overman, who is Nebraska’s longest serving mayor with 20 years in the position.
As Randy said, Don was always ready to share ideas and experience, but never got in the way.
“Many of the council members had been there for a while, so it was a team effort,” he said. “It wasn’t anything I particularly did. I also had a commonality with Susan Wiedeman, who was running for mayor of Gering. We graduated together from Gering.”
When Randy took office in 2006, one of the big issues was the city budget, as it is every year.
“People don’t realize that in 2006, Scottsbluff had enough reserve to run the city for about a month,” he said. “That wasn’t appropriate as the industry standard is a three-month reserve. So we all worked together by bringing that back up over the next several years.”
Other decisions included whether to build a new city hall and a new emergency services building, which Randy said required a lot of out-of-the-box thinking.
Another big project was expansion of the public library, done in partnership with the Nebraska Lied Foundation.
“In a down economy, we were able to keep local contractors busy during that time,” he said. “We had funding set aside in the city budget to do things like that.”
Other projects he helped bring to fruition were a city-wide quiet zone for train horns which also helped increase safety around rail crossings, extension of the city’s hiking and biking pathway system and resurfacing many of the city’s higher trafficked streets.
“There are a lot of little things that made big things with partnerships with all the surrounding communities,” Meininger said. “That was always my platform — partnering with others. Overall during my tenure, council pulled in the same direction.”
So what will he miss about his 12 years as Scottsbluff Mayor? Randy said one of the things he enjoyed the most was hearing from citizens and other communities about their concerns.
“I enjoyed cussing and discussing problems with people and coming up with solutions,” he said. “I was involved in meetings all the time because the energy came from the groups.”
He said when he came into office in 2006, there were several vacant buildings in the downtown area. But today, few buildings are empty and downtown business owners are wondering how to handle parking for all the traffic.
Going forward, Randy said he wants to be like his mentor Don Overman. He’s ready to offer input but won’t meddle in what’s going on.
“Everybody should be involved in what’s going on in the city,” he said. “But there are always times when new blood needs to step up and the old guard to step away.”