Pillen appoints State Sen. Tom Briese as new state treasurer
LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, the first farmer to hold the governor’s office in over a century, appointed another farmer Thursday as state treasurer: State Sen. Tom Briese of Albion.
During his two terms in the Legislature, Briese, a law school graduate, has advocated shifting more education funding away from local property taxes and onto state income and sales taxes. He is term-limited from running again in 2024.
Briese, the chairman of the Legislature’s Executive Board, told the Nebraska Examiner he applied for the $85,000 a year treasurer’s job because he hoped to continue serving the public. He said he was “honored to be selected.”
“I have truly enjoyed my time in the Legislature and am proud of the accomplishments achieved during my tenure, as well as the relationships that were forged,” he said. “I look forward to this new opportunity.”
Pillen said he picked Briese because he “has the respect of his peers and has been a great representative for District 41.” The governor called him “a proven leader on tax policy reform” and said that work would “serve him well in his new role as treasurer.”
Several people who have worked with Briese for years said they were not surprised Pillen picked him. One of them, State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Omaha, called him an “extremely capable” senator.
“He’s smart and works tirelessly,” Linehan said of Briese. “Nebraska owes him a great deal of gratitude. I’m happy for Nebraska, but am sad he won’t be in the Legislature.”
Pick surprises some
Pillen’s selection surprised some political observers because Briese had endorsed Pillen’s top GOP primary opponent for governor in 2022, multi-state agribusinessman Charles Herbster.
Briese continued to support Herbster after State Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar and seven other women came forward with groping allegations against Herbster, which he denied. Briese maintained his support after legislative staffers spoke out publicly to corroborate two of the women’s allegations.
“If being faultless was the litmus test for public service, we would have no public servants,” he said at the time.
Slama, chair of the Legislature’s Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee, also applied for the treasurer job. She and Briese were among 10 applicants, according to the Governor’s Office.
The list also included Fremont Mayor Joey Spellerberg, Public Service Commissioner Christian Mirch, Assistant State Treasurer Rachel Biar and former treasurer candidate Taylor Royal.
Other applicants of note included Omaha-area lawyer Ryan Loneman, a vice president for a Lindsay Corp., an Omaha agribusiness firm, and Jason Hayes, a lawyer who formerly volunteered with the Lancaster County Republican Party and works as a lobbyist for the Nebraska State Education Association. He also was chief deputy state treasurer under former treasurer Shane Osborn.
Outgoing State Treasurer John Murante has resigned, effective Sept. 18, to lead the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems. Briese is set to take office Nov. 1. In the interim, the governor will act in the formal role as treasurer, with Biar handling the office’s day-to-day duties, according to Pillen’s news release.
Briese, reached Thursday afternoon, said he needed a couple of weeks to handle the harvest and get his affairs in order before taking over the new office’s responsibilities. He would first face voters as treasurer in 2026, after finishing Murante’s term.
With Briese’s appointment, Pillen will have to select a new state senator to represent east-central Nebraska’s District 41. That district is home to Ord, Albion, Dannebrog and Wood River. The Governor’s Office said it would detail its process for selecting a replacement senator soon.