Thomas C. Sorensen Seminar: Forum for Political Leadership


This Forum for Political Leadership is an effort to address the difficulties in enabling capable men and women to enter public life. Each election cycle, residents of Nebraska express concern about the shortage of candidates for both elected public office and volunteer positions, while potential candidates express reluctance toward assuming the burdens of political office. Others who consider becoming active express the need for assistance in developing the abilities to be responsible and effective leaders, especially in the current environment where expensive, media-intensive campaigns have rendered the public increasingly distrustful and cynical about the election process. This seminar tackled these issues by providing potential public servants with the information necessary to enter public life.

This seminar was sponsored by the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center and Thomas C. Sorensen Endowment of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Seminar leaders:
Allen Beermann currently serves as the executive director of the Nebraska Press Association. On January 7, 1971, he was sworn into office as Nebraska secretary of state for his first four-year term at age 31 and served an additional five terms in that position for a total of 24 years. He also served as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, and 29 years in the military, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General Corps. Mr. Beermann is also a member of numerous community organizations, currently serving on the boards of NebraskaLAND Foundation and the Nebraska State Patrol Foundation, Inc. In 2001, the Republic of China presented him with their Foreign Service Medallion. He has a B.A. from Midland Lutheran College and J.D. from Creighton University School of Law.

Stephen Buhler is a professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has been the project convener for the University’s Leadership for Institutional Change (LINC) initiative, funded by the Kellogg Foundation, since 1999. He received a Ph.D. in English from UCLA. Dr. Buhler is the author of Shakespeare in the Cinema: Ocular Proof and of numerous articles dealing with literature, performance, teaching, and outreach. He has given talks based on his research–and on his experiences as a high school and college educator–for local organizations, regional schools, and international conferences, as well as over the Nebraska Public Radio Network. In 1999, he was inducted into UNL’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers and was the recipient of an Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA) from the University of Nebraska state-wide system.

Irv Omtvedt served as vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources for the University of Nebraska, vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and professor emeritus of Animal Science. He received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and M.S. and Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University. Dr. Omtvedt joined UNL in 1975 as head of the Department of Animal Science. Prior to being appointed IANR vice chancellor in 1988, he served five years as dean for Agricultural Research at UNL. In addition, he served as interim senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs in 1996-97 and served as the vice chancellor for Extended Education from 1997-99. He currently serves on the governing boards of the Nebraska Community Foundation, the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, the Agriculture Builders of Nebraska, and the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement.

Deb Thomas is the director of Special Projects for the University of Nebraska. She has served in a variety of executive branch positions with the State of Nebraska, including the State Auditor’s Office, Department of Social Services, and Health and Human Services System. Ms. Thomas also served as committee counsel for the Executive Board and Revenue Committee of the Nebraska Legislature for six years, held an executive position with the Department of Administrative Services for the State of Nebraska, and was a lobbyist for the City of Lincoln. She has an extensive history working on the city council, legislative, and gubernatorial races as a manager or consultant. Her previous and current involvement with community groups includes working with the Lincoln Child Guidance Center, United Way, Girl Scouts, Holt International Children’s Services, First-Plymouth Congregational Church, and Selective Service System.

Walter Radcliffe has a long history of working around the Nebraska Unicameral, starting with a position as a page and proofreader. He also served as research assistant and chief counsel for the Judiciary Committee, and as the state/federal liaison officer for the Legislature. Radcliffe practiced law with Max Kier, the former speaker of Nebraska’s bicameral legislature in the 1930s, and Roland Luedtke, former speaker, lt. governor, and mayor of Lincoln. He also served as assistant clerk to the legislature and as counsel to the speaker, counsel to the Judiciary Committee, and counsel to the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee. In 1977, he formed a partnership with David D. Tews, in the firm of Tews and Radcliffe, and has been a registered lobbyist since that time. In the early 1980’s, he became the sole owner of the firm and in 1989 changed the name of the business to Radcliffe & Associates. As principal of the firm, Radcliffe leads a team of three attorneys/lobbyists and represents a wide variety of interests.