Get to Know Your Unicameral: Sen. Megan Hunt

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May 1st, 2019

In our continuing profiles of Omaha state senators now serving in the Nebraska Unicameral, KVNO student reporter Emily White recently sat down with Omaha Senator Megan Hunt. They discussed Senator Hunt’s experiences in the state senate thus far and the unique insights and experiences that she draws on in representing the interests of her urban district.

Megan Hunt, Senator Elect. December 20th, 2018. Photo by Gregory Nathan / University Communication

When she arrived at the Unicameral in January, freshman senator Megan Hunt wasted no time in getting to work.

“Some people have made remarks to me, like, ‘Oh, you’re just diving right in,’ or ‘Oh, I just wanted to warm up a little bit first before I started working on some of the stuff that I’ve talked about with my constituents. I don’t think that’s responsible. For me, I would not feel like I was being responsible as an elected official representing 37,000 people if I didn’t do on day one what I said I was going to do when I was knocking all those doors.”

Senator Hunt has introduced nearly twenty bills at the legislature thus far, ranging on subjects from energy policy to minimum wage to a ban on LGBT conversion therapy.  

Hunt represents District 8, encompassing part of midtown Omaha. That includes the Dundee neighborhood, where she co-founded her small business Hello Holiday—which supports local, independent designers and artists—in 2012. That’s just one of several ventures of which she has been part.

“I do not have a background in politics,” she says. “I have a background in entrepreneurship. Coming with a background in entrepreneurship, I’m starting to realize more and more parallels between running a business and getting into politics.”

As an entrepreneur, Hunt supported her community and promoted various causes. Eventually, she came to be seen not only as a leader in business, but a leader in politics as well. She says her skills learned in business now give her an important voice in the legislature.

“I can see that my strengths are not only very effective in that body but they are (much) needed. I used to think that I really didn’t belong there, that I was sort of the odd one out,” says Hunt.

“But when I look at all the other people in that body, and I hear some of the things that they say—both good and bad, both things I disagree with and agree with—I think, ‘Well what makes me think that they can be here but I can’t? What makes me think that they belong here but I’m not qualified to do this?’

Senator Hunt is proud of what she has done so far in her committees, where a lot of the work gets done. As vice chair of the Urban Affairs Committee, she looks at legislation involving energy, building codes and transportation—things she believes tie directly into issues like climate change and sustainability.

She practices her coalition-building skills within these committees, working with people with ideologies different from hers. Respect and consistency, she says, is key to protecting the nonpartisan nature of the Unicameral.

“Governors are always going to come and go, political issues are always going to come and go, our federally-elected representatives that influence us are always going to come and go,” she says, “but our nonpartisan unicameral is a jewel in this country. We should be so proud of the privilege of serving in this body.”

Hunt also has the distinction of being the first openly LGBT state senator in Nebraska, but she is aware of other points of privilege that have helped her “get in the door.” She wants to use her position now to hold that door open for those less privileged to join her in places of power.

“One thing that I really hate that I hear politicians say is ‘I want to be a voice for the voiceless’ or ‘I’m speaking for those who have no voice.’ I really hate hearing that because what I hear when you say that is ‘I’m speaking over you’ or ‘I’m speaking for you’ when really, everybody has a voice, everybody can speak for themselves, and we just don’t think that because we don’t hear them. We’re not listening for them, or they don’t have the privileges that some of us have to come into a place of power.”

Senator Hunt hesitates to set goals for herself long-term, fearful of getting “tunnel vision” and missing opportunities along the way. One thing Hunt does want to do going forward, however, is make Nebraska a place where all people feel safe and at home.

“I think Nebraska is for everyone. I believe in ‘The Good Life.’ I think that this is a setting that is really good for anybody’s story,” she says. “The opportunities we have in this state are just starting to unfold, but we need legislators who can be forward-thinking, future-minded, and building a state that future generations are going to be attracted to.

“I don’t know what that looks like in ten years, but I know what that looks like tomorrow. And it’s just going to be a series of tomorrows and finding those successes every day that we can.”

Listen to the full interview with Senator Hunt below:

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