One of the absolutely wonderful things about running for office is the opportunity you get to meet people that you otherwise would not. The overwhelming majority of them are just common, everyday people like myself. They drink their coffee in the morning, go to work and tuck their children in at night. There’s a reassurance in meeting so many good people. It’s a comforting confirmation that we’re not alone.
Then there are those magical times when you get a chance to meet someone special. I liken it to meeting royalty – Omaha royalty. These are people who you may have heard about your entire life, may have seen them from a distance a time or two, but otherwise they are just distant stars. Well, I had a chance last week to meet one in person. His name is Steve Rosenblatt.
Now Steve would be the first to scoff at the suggestion that he is anything special. In his mind he is just a guy who has worked hard, raised a family, served the public and likes baseball - a lot. He’s also very proud of his rather large group of friends. But to me, he’s Omaha royalty.
His Dad was Johnny Rosenblatt – a great local ballplayer who built a stadium; brought AAA baseball to Omaha along with the College World Series; and served as a powerful and popular Mayor over 60 years ago. He was also a member of a very exclusive club of legendary Jews who have brought a good deal of fame and fortune to Omaha over the years – community benefactors like Edward Rosewater, Henry Monsky, Morris Jacobs, Ed Zorinsky and Rose Blumkin.
But being the son of a legend is no easy task. Ask Preston Love, Jr. There are the comparisons and the expectations. But the best of them, like Steve and Preston, have a very special perspective on life. They see the downside of stardom. They see the trials and the costs, and they make their own way.
After an early life mostly focused on sports and having a good time, Omaha Mayor Gene Leahy suggested to Steve that he ought to run for Omaha City Council. That resulted in him serving two terms on the Council, followed by three terms as a Douglas County Commissioner. He once said of his public service, “You try to get elected to help people who perhaps don’t have the ability to help themselves… Helping people is the thing that gives you the most pleasure.”
Even though in his mind he was only doing his part, he had a long list of important accomplishments in his run. He was instrumental in the creation of the Con Agra Campus, saved the Orpheum from demolition and was chair of the Midlands Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society just to name a few. He could have been a mayor or congressman, but he decided other things were more important.
Possibly one of the most character driven moves of his life was his endorsement of TD Ameritrade Park which cemented the deal with the College World Series to remain in Omaha. Half of Omaha, including myself, had grown-up in the old stadium. It was as much a part of our home and our heritage as any other landmark in the city. Many of us would have gone to war over that stadium had Steve led the way, but that wasn’t his way. He knew that progress should not be an emotional decision. It hurt. It hurt all of us, but it takes a real leader, especially one tied so closely to the old, to sacrifice personal interests for the good of the city. That takes real character, and on that score, he hit a grand slam.
Anyway, from here on, I get to join the thousands of other people around the world who count Steve Rosenblatt as friend. I could not feel more blessed.