- Associated Press - Monday, September 29, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - State Sen. John Nelson was sworn into office as Nebraska’s 40th lieutenant governor on Monday for the final three months of Gov. Dave Heineman’s term in office.

Nelson, an Omaha attorney, took his oath of office in a ceremony at the Capitol. The 78-year-old replaces Lavon Heidemann, who resigned earlier this month after a judge approved his sister’s request for a protective order.

Heineman said he finalized his decision over the weekend and called Nelson on Sunday night to request his service.

“John is a respected public official, he’s a veteran, and he’s been a very successful attorney, and I have great respect for him,” Heineman said.

Nelson, a Republican, has served in the Legislature since 2007 but could not seek re-election this year because of term limits. He has been a private practice attorney since 1964. He also is a retired commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

“I am honored to receive this appointment and look forward to serving the citizens of Nebraska as their lieutenant governor for the remaining 100 days of this term,” Nelson said.

Heineman is leaving office in January due to term limits, so Nelson’s stint as lieutenant governor will end then.

Nelson resigned from the state Senate before taking the oath as lieutenant governor, leaving his seat in the Legislature unfilled. Jen Rae Wang, the governor’s communications director, said Heineman does not plan to appoint anyone to the seat before the election.

Democrat John Stalnaker and Republican Joni Craighead are both vying for the officially nonpartisan seat in the November election, and Heineman has publicly endorsed Craighead.

Nelson said he expects to leave public office after his term ends in January so he can resume his private law practice in Omaha.

As a senator, Nelson served on the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee. He usually supported the governor’s policy positions, although the two were at odds over a proposal to spend $2.5 million in state money for bronze fountains at the Capitol. Heineman opposed the funding, while Nelson argued that it would help complete the last original piece of the state Capitol.

Nelson was born in Geneva and grew up on family farm. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and earned his law degree from Creighton University in 1964.

The lieutenant governor mainly serves as a successor in case the governor dies or leaves office. In recent years, lieutenant governors have overseen Nebraska’s homeland security, emergency management and information-technology programs.

The constitution also calls for lieutenant governors to preside over the Legislature when lawmakers are in session. Nelson won’t do so because lawmakers aren’t expected to reconvene until January, when he leaves his post.

In addition, lieutenant governors serve as public liaisons for the governor at local chamber banquets, schools and ribbon-cuttings. The lieutenant governor is paid $75,000 a year.

Nelson is the third lieutenant governor to serve under Heineman. Heidemann replaced Rick Sheehy, who resigned in February 2013 amid revelations that he had made thousands of phone calls to women other than his wife on a state cellphone.

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