Mayor Helen Boosalis: My Mother's Life in Politics

Mayor Helen Boosalis: My Mother's Life in Politics

Mayor Helen Boosalis: My Mother's Life in Politics

Mayor Helen Boosalis: My Mother's Life in Politics


As a 1950s housewife and League of Women Voters volunteer who spearheaded the city of Lincoln's switch to a "strong mayor" form of government, Helen Boosalis never anticipated that she herself would one day be that strong mayor and chief executive of Nebraska's capital city. Helen Boosalis's story, told by her daughter, Beth Boosalis Davis, is the story of a true pioneer of women in politics. The daughter of Greek immigrants, Boosalis achieved national prominence as the first woman president of the U. S. Conference of Mayors and as an outspoken advocate for economically distressed cities facing President Reagan's "new federalism." Winning the Democratic nomination for governor of Nebraska in 1986, Helen Boosalis ran against Kay Orr in the first gubernatorial contest between two women in U. S. history. The interwoven tales of conflict and challenge, from the mayor's office to the campaign trail, combine personal insight into one woman's trailblazing political history with a compelling memoir of a half century of public service and private devotion shared by two remarkable women.


Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.

I have known my mom for fifty-nine years. Perhaps I should subtract two or three of those that I cannot now remember, but I knew my mother even during those years. I knew her in the way most children, even grown ones, know their mothers—as a being whose purpose is my well-being.

Granted, as children mature we develop a slightly less egocentric, one-dimensional view of our mothers, but my appreciation of my mother remained skewed by her devotion to me. How can you be objective about the person who is your ultimate cheerleader, who loves you unconditionally, who believes you can do no wrong? The short answer is, you can’t.

I knew when I set out to write this book about my mother that attaining objectivity about her would not be possible. But that was not my goal. My quest sprang from a desire to know more of the whole woman, not only the mother parts.

Familiar to me were Mom’s political accomplishments, unusual for a woman of her era: elected city council member in Lincoln, Nebraska, my hometown; mayor and chief executive of Lincoln; first woman president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; and Democratic nominee for governor of Nebraska in the country’s first two-woman gubernatorial election. But I wanted to walk that path alongside her—to grasp more fully the twists and turns of struggle, joy, disappointment, satisfaction, frustration, and triumph that she encountered along her way.

And I wanted to understand what kept her going on the path that was not a path before she walked it. What illuminated her next uncharted steps, renewed her strength after falling, nourished her determination? Was she graced with a special set of qualities, or did she learn what she . . .

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