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40th Legislative District Seat Up For Grabs

May 4, 2022 (0)

Barry DeKay
Keith Kube
Mark Patefield
Robert Johnston

The Nebraska Primary Election will be held next Tuesday, May, 10. Besides the Republican Governor race, one of the more pertinent races to the Holt County area will be that of filling the 40th Legislature District being vacated by Sen. Timothy Gragert of Creighton at the end of his term.

Running for the office in May are Mark Patefield of Laurel, Keith Kube of Crofton, Barry DeKay of Niobrara and Robert E. Johnston of Clearwater.

One of the standout candidates is Barry Dekay. Many of us will recognize Dekay from his years as a high school and college basketball official which he has done in the area for a long time. Dekay is also a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in District 40, spending over 44 years engaged in a farming and ranching operation. 

Barry has served his local church, hospital and other civic organizations. Barry has been on the NVEMC Board, NREA Board and NPPD Board and is a proud member of the Knox County Cattlemen. Barry has been active in policy development to support agriculture as a member of the Farm Bureau Legislative Policy Committee. 

Barry was elected to the board of Niobrara Valley Electric Membership Corporation in 1999. 

His fellow directors at NREA elected him as an officer after he had served on that board for only five years. The membership of Niobrara Valley gave him a big vote of confidence in 2010 when they changed the bylaws to allow him to serve an additional three-year term as a director of the cooperative so he could finish serving his term as president of the NREA.

Barry has continually worked to improve his understanding of the electric business. In 2003 - four years after becoming a director for this cooperative - he received the Credential Cooperative Director certification from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. This requires taking five-day-long courses to become certified. After that, he took the 10 courses needed to receive his Board Leadership Certification. In addition, he has received additional, non-credit training from courses put on by this cooperative, the Nebraska Rural Electric Association and their banker the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation. While serving on the Nebraska Public Power District's board he has continued to expand his education, taking additional NRECA courses and NPPD-related materials. As a result, he obtained his Gold Standard Certification, an achievement only about 10% of rural electric directors had accomplished.

In the past six years, while on NPPD's board he served three years as chairman of their Nuclear Committee and was elected as board chairman on Jan. 1st of 2020.

DeKay said he is running to address four major priorities: Reform the state's broken tax structure, invest in roads and infrastructure, deliver much-needed broadband access across the state and spur economic development in the district.

“I have spent my entire lifetime helping the people of District 40 in many areas,” DeKay said. “I believe my commonsense approach to working to achieve the best for the district is second to none.”

DeKay said he wants voters to know that as a state senator, he would help and listen to their issues. He added that he would be actively engaged with everyone in the district, hosting events to listen to the concerns of citizens. Keith Kube will be a tough opponent for Dekay and the other candidates running for the 40th district seat.

Kube, although a native of Nebraska, had the opportunity to work throughout the world for over 985 different businesses, helping them successfully navigate the difficult task of business ownership. With this management experience and understanding of how to stress test businesses he can see the threats that come to businesses and how to manage an organization to minimize these threats, often before they realize the threat.

Kube said he wants to run because he is motivated to run because his experience in agriculture, business and consulting would allow him to best serve the district and state.

“With this management experience, I have come to understand the hidden threats to farmers, ranchers, businesses and citizens in order to intercede before experiencing unintended consequences of unsound decisions by politicians,” said Kube.

To manage the system we use to protect and maintain the public assets of our citizens, provide security and administer laws to preserve our way of life. This is done by continuing to control spending while always determining the sustainability and duration of any program. Like Thomas Jefferson, I believe the role of government is to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens. That means we continue working to safeguard that system that provides our security, laws and infrastructure.

Mark Patefield of Laurel is one of the newer candidates in the race. Patefield grew up on a family farm 10 miles north of Laurel, graduating from Laurel-Concord High School in 1997.

He then attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and then went on to Creighton University, for pharmacy school where he met his wife Christina. Both Patefields are pharmacists, owning the Main Street Apothecary in Laurel and the U-Save Pharmacy in Wayne. They have four children, Holly, 14, Weston, 12, Lauren, 9, and Graham, 6. 

Patefield also served two terms as Laurel's mayor and one term on the Laurel-Concord School Board.

“I understand the urban-rural push and pull and I'll be able to talk to them (colleagues) and understand where they're coming from. I can explain my side better having seen both sides,” he said. “I also own two businesses and I understand the pressures that come with that, how to make a budget, how to make payroll. There's not a whole lot of people down in the Legislature that have had to do that.” 

He said some of the issues before the state have been laying on his heart heavily for the last six months, especially the sexual education standards proposed by the Nebraska Department of Education.  

“That's very concerning trying to read through those. That's pretty tough to think that's what they want to teach our kids,” Patefield said. 

Property tax relief is something that also needs to be addressed as well as taking a stand to protect Nebraska's natural resources. 

Patefield said he's eager to kick off his campaign and highlight his strong conservative voice to represent the views of the District 40 constituency. 

“I want to get out and talk to people. You learn a lot more by listening rather than talking,” he said.

 The last candidate to file was Robert Johnston of Clearwater. Johnston is a proud fifth-generation farmer who produces soybeans, corn and alfalfa on his family's original homestead and on the same ground, both of his grandfathers and dad worked. 

"I live on the land between Orchard and Clearwater where I was raised by Harry and Dee, my devoted parents who taught me the value of hard work and honest living."

For the past decade, Johnston has served as a Director on the Nebraska Soybean Association and was elected President and Chairman of the Board. Johnston was also on the Nebraska Ag Leaders Working Group for six years, fighting against the scourge of rising property taxes and protecting the rights and livelihoods of rural Nebraskans. 


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Barry DeKay

Holt County

Keith Kube

Nebraska Primary Election

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