River City 6: James Cavanaugh

James Cavanaugh is one of the seven Douglas County (commissioners.douglascounty-ne.gov/). Each of the county commissioners has about 73,200+ citizens within their districts, and they run for office every 4 years. Serving Douglas County for over 150 years, the entity primarily oversees an annual budget of approximately a third of a billion dollars and over 2,000 employees, covering diverse areas from healthcare to corrections.

How did you get your start in public office? – I’m an Omaha native and grew up in a family that values public service as an honorable profession. My father was actually a commissioner before me. When I graduated from law school, I went to work for the Douglas County Public Defender’s office. After 9 years of doing that I went into private practice, serving clients with social security disability applications, and also served on a wide variety of local non-profit boards. I have always had an interest in the Douglas County government in particular, so when the opportunity came along in 2014, I felt that I would be able to make a great contribution and decided to run.

What has been your most important achievement professionally? – Providing the highest level of healthcare to those in our local communities. Our job as trustees of the Douglas County Health Center is to ensure the tools needed to serve Douglas County residents are available. We are currently developing a public healthcare corridor in partnership with UNMC and the Omaha VA Medical Center, which is an exciting, strategic development of public health in the Metropolitan area.

Tell us a little about your family. – I am married and the father of four children, with three daughters and one son. They are the light of my life, and I take my responsibilities as a husband and father most seriously. My wife is a practicing attorney as well, so between our two careers and our home life, we stay very busy!

What do you see as one of the biggest turning points in your life? – I was involved in a very serious car accident about 3 ½ years ago. When one has a close brush with death, it offers an opportunity to reflect on what is important in life along with feeling greater cause and purpose. You definitely appreciate all the gifts that you have. It had a big effect on my decision to serve in elected office. When my brother Tom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away suddenly last year, it was yet another turning point and opportunity to reassess and reevaluate my priorities in life. Do as much good as you can every day. Live life to its fullest. Leave the world a better place.

What is your favorite thing to do on a day off? – I like to swim, ride horses, camp, and gather with family.

What is the most unique or interesting thing about you that most people probably don’t know? – I have canoed every river in Nebraska. One of my favorites would be Snake River.

What local non-profit organization(s) are you passionate about or involved with, and are there any special reasons why? – Justice For Our Neighbors. It’s the largest free legal clinic for undocumented immigrants and I served on the board for 8 years. Also, the Omaha Irish Cultural Center; it works to establish a home for Irish cultural programs here in the Omaha Metro and I served on the board there as well.

What is your favorite local restaurant? – Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob.

If you could have dinner with one famous person from the past or present, who would it be? – Mark Twain.

If our readers would like to contact you, how should they do so? – Call (402) 341-2020 or email me at james.cavanaugh@douglascounty-ne.gov.

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