Meet the Ralston City Council: Ward 3’s Brian Kavanaugh


Brian Kavanaugh
By 
Derek Noehren
The Daily Record

Elected in 2018, first-term Ralston City Councilman Brian Kavanaugh represents Ralston’s Ward III, which sits smack in the middle of town.

Originally from Denver, Kavanaugh earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in physical education from Ohio University.

Kavanaugh landed in Nebraska in 1993 when he came to coach track and cross country at Wayne State College.

In 2000 when Kavanaugh decided to hang up the whistle, he moved to the Ralston area on advice from friends.

Kavanaugh first dipped his toe in political water by becoming a member of the Jaycees Club, first at Wayne and then in Ralston.

“That’s how I ended up getting pretty involved in community activities and events, and meeting the mayor, some of the City Council people and other leaders in the community,” Kavanaugh said.

After having lived on the edge of town, Kavanaugh decided to move inside the Ralston city limits in 2006, which at that point was a no-brainer for him.

“When I started looking for a house, I really never considered anywhere but Ralston. I had already made friends with a lot of people that were pretty active in the Jaycees and with the community,” Kavanaugh said. “It was having that small town feeling while still having the amenities of being in a metropolitan area. I just liked that everyone was friendly in town, there are things to do, there’s great community support and you’re able to know the leaders of the community.”

Eventually, Kavanaugh aged out of the Jaycees, but knew he wanted to remain involved in the community.

“I still wanted to stay active and was regularly attending city council meetings, which is something I’d done since I was in the Jaycees,” he said. “I just wanted to get involved and help in trying to address some of the problems that I saw in the city.”

During his campaign, Kavanaugh’s three biggest areas of focus were: the Ralston Arena and its finances, catching up on street maintenance and redeveloping downtown to create a broader tax base — thereby benefiting the city and lowing taxes for residents.

Looking forward, Kavanaugh is encouraged about the future due to Ralston’s recent commercial growth, including the Hinge Project, which features the Granary District.

Currently under construction, the Granary District project is described as a live, work, play area with an event venue.

“The Hinge project itself has been very interesting because there for a while there it did not look like it would get off the ground. You can do all this planning about things we wanted to see, but until something actually happened it was hard to see a path forward,” Kavanaugh said.

The first big domino fell when the city sold the parking lot at 77th Street and Park Drive for construction of apartments homes called The Hinge Flats.

“It seems like by selling the parking lot to get the first bid of infrastructure, we have kickstarted it. So now, we’ve got (the Hinge) project, the Granary project and we’ve got interest in other properties around the Hinge area as well. It seems like we’ve hit that critical mass that’s really going to spur development in Ralston.”

Although pleased with the progress made, Kavanaugh believes the area needs more retail options,  mentioning specifically restaurants and bars among other possibilities.

“We still have a lot of storefronts that aren’t retail or customer focused, so that makes it a little harder to attract people when there’s not as many businesses as there should be, but the number has increased in just the couple years I’ve been on the City Council,” Kavanaugh said. “Having a greater population base in the downtown Hinge area will help attract businesses. One of the big shortages I see is retail space. We have one restaurant that’s open for breakfast, and (some bars), so we have a number of places that interest people, but that’s what we need more of. We need things like a coffee shop, grocery store or things like that which will help sustain a bigger population in the downtown area.”

In his professional life, Kavanaugh works for Old Republic Title as the company’s lead application security engineer. Similar to most regular jobs, being on the council has its pro and cons.

“Government is slow moving, so that’s one of the frustrations. Sometimes it takes a long time to change,” he said. “The arena’s finances still aren’t there. I think had it not been for COVID really knocking the arena down for a year, we would have been much further along. But, we’ve been making progress and if you look at the list of shows coming up in the next year or so, they’ve done a good job. We just haven’t seen a lot of concrete results yet, mainly because COVID knocked it down for a year.”

However, Kavanaugh still enjoys the job for the same reasons he got into it in the first place.

“Having a hand in the future direction of the city is very rewarding,” he said. “Getting questions and complaints from residents and then being able to help them out and find solutions for them is very gratifying as well.”

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