Maxine Moul serves Nebraskans from the Capitol
These days, Maxine Moul is seeing life from the other side of the reporter’s notepad. As lieutenant governor of Nebraska, the 1969 UNL journalism graduate had been the chair for many a public meeting and subject of plenty of interviews since her election in 1990.
“My journalism training and background have been a tremendous help,” Moul said of her new career in government. Journalism taught her the ability to listen to people and sort through what the’re saying and the ability to ask key questions, she said. And it has been a big boon when it comes to speech writing.
Moul spent about 20 years pervfecting her journalistic craft before she took her own advice and decided to run for office. She has been very involved in the state Democratic Party since the early 1970s, she said, and had served on the State Central Committee from 1974 on. She was elected to the Democratic National Committee in 1988, and one of her duties as a member of that body was to encourage Democrats to run for office.
“I tried to talk some women into running” in 1988, Moul said, with no success. “ So I decided to take the lead”. She considered running for state treasurer but settled on lieutenant governor after discovering that governors often put their lieutenants in charge of special projects involving economic development. That possibility intrigued Moul, and she joined four male candidates in the primary race.
Moul and Governor Ben Nelson were elected in November 1990, and Nelson appointed her to chair the Nebraska Rural Development Commission.
In addition to her journalism experience, Moul brings her rural background to her job. Born in Burt County, she attended a one-room school for grades 1-8 and graduated from Oakland High School in 1965. She was editor of both her high school yearbook and school newspaper as a senior, then went on to major in news-editorial at the UNL School of Journalism.
Her interest writing was fostered when she interned with several magazines after her junior year. But, when she graduated, Moul chose a job with the Sioux City Journal over offers from Better Homes and Gardens because the newspaper position “seemed more rounded.”
It was during her years in Sioux City that Moul met her husband Francis, whom she succeeded as Sunday feature writer and photographer. When Francis came back to the paper visit his former editor, he and Maxine struck up a relationship that is still going strong.
By the fall of 1970, Francis had decided to purchase his hometown paper in Syracuse and founded Maverick media, Inc. The new corporation purchased the Syracuse Journal-Democrat in May 1971. Maxine moved to Syracuse in November that year, and the couple was married in April 1972.
It didn’t take the Mouls long to decide they couldn’t support their family on one weekly paper, so they started looking for additional properties. By 1973 they owned five papers. The ones they purchased at Syracus, Sterling and Talmage, and the ones they founded at Peru and Louisville.
By 1975 the Mouls had started their first shopper, the Penny Press at Nebraska City and Auburn. The Penny Press expanded to Maryville, MO, in 1977, and then really began to grow, taking in more of southeast Nebraska. In 1983 Maverick Media purchased a printing company and shopper in Kearney. They started a new shopper in Hastings.
By the time Maxine took over financial management of maverick media in 1975, she had experience in every aspect of producing a community newspaper – except running the press. She had written sports stories and feature stories, covered city government, edited, taken pictures, and worked in the darkroom and set type. She and Francis were co-publishers, with Francis directing ad sales.
The Mouls in sold Maverick Media in 1988 to three investors, and Maxine stayed on under a management contract until she was elected to state office.
Her new job, moul said, is “ a lot more than I expected.” As a reporter, publisher, and active political volunteer, Moul had watched state government carefully. But the thing that impressed her most after she took office was how big state government is, how many people it employs and how complex the budgeting process is. “It’s been fascinating,” She said.
She has spent 80 percent of her time as lieutenant governor working with the Rural Development Commission. Her other primary duties include serving as co-chair of the Nebraska Q-125 Commission – the body that planned the state’s 125th birthday celebration in 1992 – and with the Nebraska 2000 Education Commission. Moul has also given lot of speeches – 150 during her first year in office.
This past summer Moul was one of 35 emerging state government leaders from across the nation selected to participate in the Toll Fellowship Program. The week-long seminar on policy issues and leadership development is named in honor of Henry Toll, the Colorado senator who founded the Council of State Governments in 1933.
It’s been a challenge to keep up. To do all that is expected of her, Moul said, but the rewards have been great. The best of those rewards had been meeting the people and getting to know the state. Nebraskans are good at telling their political leaders just what they think, the positive as well as the negative, Moul said.
Her husband is occupied these days with managing the couple’s Wordsmith books in the Lincoln Haymarket and with environmental concerns. He currently serves as chair of the Clean the Environment Committee. The Mouls’ son Jeff attended Southeast Community College in Beatrice for a year and has now enrolled at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln where he will probably major in business.
Moul said she plans to run for re-election to her post in 1994, but after another term, hopes to return to a career in journalism. “When I go back to journalism I’ll have a new perspective,” Moul said. I hope it will make me a better journalist.”