Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning graduated with a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While he said that what he learned from his classes at UNL has helped him in his career, it was the passion and attraction to politics and public policy that got him to where he is today.
"I always had an interest and inclination toward government and politics for whatever reason. But when it came time to choose a major, I always had an interest in writing as well and thought at the time that I'd like to be a reporter," he said.
Later during Moenning's college career, he did change his major but stayed at the college of journalism while focusing on advertising and public relations.
"… I worked on a few different political campaigns, volunteered for some campaigns, I had that bug that didn't go away. The first job I worked after graduation was in the Nebraska Legislature, I worked as an aide for a senator there," he said.
Subsequently working for Jeff Fortenberry — before he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives — and Gov. Pete Ricketts gave Moenning a lot of experience that helped him while remaining involved in public policy in Nebraska.
In 2004, he worked as a communications staff member for Fortenberry during the Lincoln city councilman's time running for the 1st District seat in Congress. Shortly after, the job transitioned into working on Fortenberry’s congressional staff.
All the while, Moenning said he continued to enjoy being around the Nebraska Legislature and getting the opportunity to get familiar with the government process.
Because Moenning has been involved with politics since he was in college, he's learned a lot about the government at both local and state levels. It helped Moenning to realize he has more of a passion for public policy as compared to the political side of government.
"The longer that I've been involved in this stuff, the more I realize if you make a difference or an impact, do it locally, because you can see things get done on the local level," he said.
Coming up on his second year of being mayor, Moenning has had the opportunity to make many big things happen for the City of Norfolk.
Moenning started the mayor's diversity council to help build relationships with a variety of people in the Norfolk community. With Norfolk being primarily Caucasian, that was an important goal for Moenning to accomplish.
“It was an effort to make the community open and welcoming to all of its citizens,” he said. “We can all work together to make the city better.”
The diversity council, since its inception, has put on an annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast as well as a Cinco De Mayo event.
In addition to his efforts to make the city more aesthetically and environmentally pleasing, Moenning also spends time with the city’s beautification task force. The council is planting more trees and beautifying corridors.
The city also is invested in restoring the river front of the North Fork of the Elkhorn River, which runs right through part of downtown Norfolk. The hope is to make the river safe and usable for recreation.
Combined with the renovations being made to nearby Johnson Park, it will make the downtown area open to more private developments and overall enhancing the city as a whole, Moenning said.
Being mayor isn’t considered a full-time job, but it sometimes feels that way, he said. Even so, Moenning is also the director of 4 Lanes for Nebraska, a business and industry coalition working to raise awareness on the benefits of finishing Nebraska's expressway system. He also is spending more time helping to develop Nebraska’s wind energy industry.
When he is not helping with those efforts, he is helping his family raise beef. And as if he isn’t busy enough, he is also the No. 1 fan at the events involving his children, Molly and Henry.
With a work ethic and determination for conservation like Moenning has, who knows what might be next for the mayor.