LINCOLN — Retired Col. Tommy L. Garrett of Bellevue was sworn in Wednesday to fill the seat in the Nebraska Legislature vacated when Scott Price of Bellevue resigned.
Gov. Dave Heineman named Garrett, one of the five people who applied for the position, to fill the District 3 seat. He was sworn in immediately after his appointment was announced.
Garrett, 59, was the governor’s second choice for the job.
On Friday, Heineman appointed Patrick Shannon, 55, a Bellevue businessman. But Shannon withdrew from the appointment within hours, before he could be sworn in, after questions were raised about his fitness to hold public office.
Garrett is a small-business owner in Bellevue and a 26-year veteran of the Air Force. “He shares Nebraskans’ values and is excited to represent the people of this district,” Heineman said. “He is a hard-working, fiscally conservative family man who has a proven record of public service and job creation. I appreciate his service to our country and his willingness now to serve Nebraskans.” Garrett is the founder and president of the Garrett Group, which specializes in information security, intelligence and security consulting for government and commercial clients. The Nebraska Business Development Center named the Bellevue-based business its 2012 “Veteran-Owned Business of the Year.” Garrett said he put his name in for the legislative seat because he believes in public service and felt he would be “the biggest hypocrite in the world” to pass up the opportunity to do something about issues he “vocalizes” about. “I’m a firm believer in everything the governor’s championing,” Garrett said. He listed his top issues as tax reform and job creation. He said he considers it a travesty that Nebraska taxes Social Security payments. He said he has ideas for economic development, and he opposes expanding Medicaid, as is allowed under the federal health care overhaul. “I’m not a quiet shrinking violet,” he said. Garrett, a registered Republican, said he plans to be a candidate in next year’s election. People appointed at midterm to the Legislature must run in the next election to keep their seats. The Legislature is officially nonpartisan. Garrett’s military service included work in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; operations; academic instruction; and leadership. He served overseas during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War. Heineman said Wednesday that he should have named Garrett the first time around to fill the vacant legislative seat. That’s the closest the governor came to saying that he regretted appointing Shannon. Heineman would not answer questions Wednesday about how much he knew of Shannon’s history of unpaid taxes, campaign law violations and unpaid campaign fines. “I don’t live in the past. I focus on the future,” Heineman said. “That’s over. My responsibility was to find a good person, and that’s what I focused on.” Shannon said he had to turn down the appointment Friday because his father “just suffered a heart attack.” Shannon has not paid $16,000 in state fines for violating campaign laws in 2004. The appointee will serve until Jan. 6, 2015. The seat is up for election to a two-year term on the November 2014 ballot. District 3 encompasses a portion of eastern Sarpy County. Price stepped down from the Legislature in November.
World-Herald staff writer Joe Duggan contributed to this report.