Judge Hansen Takes Crystal Gavel as OBA President

By 
David Golbitz
The Daily Record

Although she technically became the new Omaha Bar Association president on July 1, Judge Stephanie Hansen officially took the reins last week at the OBA’s President’s Reception.

“Thanks for the honor,” Hansen said at the event, held at Lucille’s in the Old Market. “It’s fun to look around and get to see all the faces of the people who have shaped the Omaha Bar Association and continue to do so.”

Hansen takes over the presidency from Dave Koukol, who was originally supposed to become president this year, but whose term prematurely began in October last year upon the sudden death of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Smith Camp.

Koukol, who referred to himself as “your panicked pandemic president,” acknowledged that his tenure as president was very much about following through on Smith Camp’s plans.

“The main goal was to really press forward with Judge Smith Camp’s program,” Koukol said, referring to Smith Camp’s wish to put a copy of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s picture book, “Bold and Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote,” into fifth grade classrooms across the Omaha Public Schools and other metro area school systems.

“Based on the information that we’ve compiled, that’s been accomplished,” Koukol said. “There are between three and five thousand students in OPS fifth grade classrooms, and some in Millard, who have started getting this program.”

The program is set to expand in the coming year as classrooms in Bellevue, Ralston and Council Bluffs begin to receive copies of the book, Koukol said.

Koukol thanked OBA Executive Director Dave Sommers for his efforts over the past 18 months to create socially distanced events to keep members active and engaged, such as the virtual wine tasting that Sommers organized and hosted over Zoom in January.

The 2021 OBA Mardee Star award -— named for longtime OBA Executive Director Mardee Korinek Johnson after her death earlier this year — was presented to Tom Gaughen and Nancy Lazer for their decades of organizing the OBA Fall Kickoff at the First National Bank of Omaha Business Park location at 144th and Dodge streets.

Koukol also acknowledged the hard work and dedication of Jean Roeder and Donna Birkby — both past Mardee Star award winners — without whom “we’d be a chaotic mess even more so than we are.”

Koukol ended his remarks with a nod toward his successor.

“I will say to Judge Hansen, stepping into this, that you’ve got a strong organization, because of the people who I’ve mentioned,” Koukol said. “Good luck with this, and you are now the pandemic president, second wave.”

Hansen is cautiously optimistic heading into her term as president that the coming year will see a return to normalcy for the OBA.

“Hopefully, this next year will be something fun and we can get together and enjoy the camaraderie that is being a lawyer and being part of the Omaha Bar Association,” Hansen said.

The reception also saw the appointments of President-elect Ken Wentz of Jackson Lewis; Treasurer-elect Angela Lennon of Koenig Dunne; Secretary Joe Howard of Dornan Law Team; and new Executive Council members Katie French of Lamson Dugan & Murray and Kathleen Pallesen of Spethman Pallesen.

Although she technically became the new Omaha Bar Association president on July 1, Judge Stephanie Hansen officially took the reins last week at the OBA’s President’s Reception.

“Thanks for the honor,” Hansen said at the event, held at Lucille’s in the Old Market. “It’s fun to look around and get to see all the faces of the people who have shaped the Omaha Bar Association and continue to do so.”

Hansen takes over the presidency from Dave Koukol, who was originally supposed to become president this year, but whose term prematurely began in October last year upon the sudden death of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Smith Camp.

Koukol, who referred to himself as “your panicked pandemic president,” acknowledged that his tenure as president was very much about following through on Smith Camp’s plans.

“The main goal was to really press forward with Judge Smith Camp’s program,” Koukol said, referring to Smith Camp’s wish to put a copy of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s picture book, “Bold and Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote,” into fifth grade classrooms across the Omaha Public Schools and other metro area school systems.

“Based on the information that we’ve compiled, that’s been accomplished,” Koukol said. “There are between three and five thousand students in OPS fifth grade classrooms, and some in Millard, who have started getting this program.”

The program is set to expand in the coming year as classrooms in Bellevue, Ralston and Council Bluffs begin to receive copies of the book, Koukol said.

Koukol thanked OBA Executive Director Dave Sommers for his efforts over the past 18 months to create socially distanced events to keep members active and engaged, such as the virtual wine tasting that Sommers organized and hosted over Zoom in January.

The 2021 OBA Mardee Star award -— named for longtime OBA Executive Director Mardee Korinek Johnson after her death earlier this year — was presented to Tom Gaughen and Nancy Lazer for their decades of organizing the OBA Fall Kickoff at the First National Bank of Omaha Business Park location at 144th and Dodge streets.

Koukol also acknowledged the hard work and dedication of Jean Roeder and Donna Birkby — both past Mardee Star award winners — without whom “we’d be a chaotic mess even more so than we are.”

Koukol ended his remarks with a nod toward his successor.

“I will say to Judge Hansen, stepping into this, that you’ve got a strong organization, because of the people who I’ve mentioned,” Koukol said. “Good luck with this, and you are now the pandemic president, second wave.”

Hansen is cautiously optimistic heading into her term as president that the coming year will see a return to normalcy for the OBA.

“Hopefully, this next year will be something fun and we can get together and enjoy the camaraderie that is being a lawyer and being part of the Omaha Bar Association,” Hansen said.

The reception also saw the appointments of President-elect Ken Wentz of Jackson Lewis; Treasurer-elect Angela Lennon of Koenig Dunne; Secretary Joe Howard of Dornan Law Team; and new Executive Council members Katie French of Lamson Dugan & Murray and Kathleen Pallesen of Spethman Pallesen.

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