NE: Larry Burks, City of Bellevue, Assistant City Administrator

Posted on December 17, 2013

Fifty Nifty Takeaways

What do we hope to learn from this series? We hope you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of local government in each state, we hope you will learn that there are others like you who are motivated to make a difference through the public sector, and we hope you will learn that it is best to learn from others’ mistakes than yours.

Our Take on Nebraska

“Omaha, somewhere in middle of America….” is stuck in our head as we journey to Nebraska for the 50 Nifty. Along with this well-known Counting Crows song, Bruce Springsteen sung about Nebraska in the aptly named song, “Nebraska.” We were unable to land Adam Duritz or Bruce Springsteen to guide us through our visit to Nebraska so we turned to the next best person, Larry Burks, Bellevue assistant city administrator. (Yes Washington state, there is another Bellevue.)

Nebraska carries the label of being one of the nicest, poliest states. How do we know this? The politeness of Nebraska Cornhusker fans has been well documented through the years. This does beg the question whether the other 49 states are just really rude. We’ll leave that discussion for another time. In spirit of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, we give “thanks” to Nebraska for enriching our pop culture with the College World Series, steaks, Kool Aid, and Berkshire Hathaway

But more importantly, we must ask what has Nebraska brought to the government arena. Gerald Ford was born in Nebraska but quickly moved out of state. Williams Jennings Bryant, who represented Nebraska in Congress, ran unsuccessfully for President three times. The most unique takeaway about Nebraska which you can use at your next dinner party is Nebraska is one of two states (with Maine) that allow for a split in the state’s allocation of electoral votes in presidential elections.

With Nebraska being known as a “polite” state, they must be free of strange laws, right? Wrong, here are a few of the more interesting laws found in Nebraska.

  • Donut holes may not be sold in Lehigh, Nebraska.
    download (3)
  • In Waterloo, Barbers are forbidden to eat onions between 7 AM and 7 PM, during regular business hours.
  • In Omaha, sneezing or burping is illegal during church services.
  • A woman in Crawford who is single, divorced, or widowed will be breaking a city law if she parachutes on Sunday.
  • In Hasting motels must provide a nightshirt that is clean and made of cotton to each guest. It is illegal for couples in the rooms to have sex unless they are wearing the shirts.


Larry Burks


Bellevue (NE) Assistant City Administrator

Education: University of Nebraska at Omaha, BS and University of Nebraska at Omaha, Masters, Public Administraton

Connect: LinkedIn

Background Check on Larry

Larry has served as City Administrator for Onawa, Iowa since 2008 and brings a diverse amount of experience to the position. In addition to his administrative duties, Burks was the Zoning Administrator and Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Onawa. He started his career in city government in 2006 by serving a City Administrator Internship and subsequently in the capacity of Administrative Assistant with the City of Hickman, Nebraska.

download (4)Under Larry’s leadership, the City of Onawa has received nearly $1.5 million in grant funding to help reduce the tax burden on the community and he is currently managing the planning and development of a forty-six acre industrial park and Onawa Iowa’s Downtown Beautification Project. Burks has also created infill housing opportunities by eliminating nearly twenty dangerous and dilapidated homes.

Larry is a former commercial printer who moved to Omaha in 1991. After enrolling at the University of Nebraska – Omaha in 2001, Burks received a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies – Geography & Planning option from the UNO Honors Program in 2005 and was selected to represent the program at the Student Honors Convocation to receive special recognition for outstanding performance and potential. Burks continued his education and received a Masters Degree in Public Administration – Public Management option in 2007. In 2011, Burks received his professional certificate in Community Economic Development from NeighborWorks America Organization.

Background Check on Bellevue

Connect: Facebook, TwitterWorld Wide Web 

Bellevue-NEBellevue (population: 50, 137) is a city in Sarpy County, Nebraska.  Eight miles south of Omaha, Bellevue is part of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area. Originally settled in the 1830s, Bellevue was incorporated in 1855 and is the oldest continuous town in Nebraska. The Nebraska State Legislature has credited the town as being the second oldest settlement in Nebraska. It was once the seat of government in Nebraska.

Bellevue’s growth today is primarily due to an expanding economy in the civilian sector. The Kennedy Freeway, a limited-access highway linked to the Interstate Highway System, has stimulated a new building boom. Commercial, industrial, and residential construction are all expanding. During the 1990s, the city’s population grew by 47.5%. Economic and population growth has continued since the turn of the 20th to 21st century.

Notables from Bellevue


  • Bob Gibson, Hall of Fame baseball player
  • Chad Sexton, drummer for Omaha rock band 311
  • Leisha Hailey, actress, musician
  • Henry Clarke, legislator and baseball player

Lightning Round

images (1)

Best piece of advice from your parents. Don’t lie.

In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party?

B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.


(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to……. Be in an action movie.

Three most influential books in your life.220px-MinnesotaFats

  • Citizen Governance by Richard Box
  • Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett, Jr.
  • Minnesota Fats on Pool by Minnesota Fats

If you could FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?

  • JFK
  • Rocky Bleier
  • Tina Fey
  • Giada de Laurentiis
  • Sandra Bullock

Describe the inside of your car. Cluttered but clean.

What’s the meaning of life? Never stop learning so you can never stop sharing.

Q & A with Larry


Give us three bullet points that best describe local government in your state.

  • Conservative
  • Professional
  • Ethical

imagesWe’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government?

  • State Patrol Trooper at 12.
  • First local government job was an internship that turned into a part-time Administrative Assistant for the small community of Hickman, Nebraska.

Give us your top three career accomplishments.

  • Financial Condition Analysis presentation
  • Being selected as the first Assistant City Administrator for the City of Bellevue, NE.

We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.

If you begin employment in a new community as a manager, be sure to allow ample time to acclimate to the cultural and political environment before projecting yourself. Tacit knowledge needs to be acquired early on to enable a smooth transition.

silly-chicken-costume-rob-ford-pictureOur experience has been many of our friends, family, and neighbors are not well versed in what it is we do in local government, many think we are a “planner” or “mayor”. Has this been your experience? 

Yes. My friends will often introduce me as the planner for Bellevue. I have also been asked when I am up for re-election. Too bad I cannot accept campaign contributions.

How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?  

POSDCORB is a great way to explain quickly much that we do as local government managers.

Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government? Yes.

Hypothetically, if we find ourselves interviewing for a job in front of you, talk about three steps we can take to make a good impression.

  • Be organized: don’t ramble and present your information in an organized manner.
  • Be informed: know what you’re talking about and support your statements with factual information and/or sources.
  • Be genuine: be yourself and don’t be afraid to smile and laugh. Or better yet, make me laugh.

150150p1507EDNthumbMayor Rita and Dan with AwardMentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.

  • Bruce Slagel,
  • Dr. John Bartle and

(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be …………

drastically changing due technology, a need for financial resources and a need for skilled human capital.

What question(s) should we have asked you?

  • What motivates you?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is one of the biggest sacrifices you have made as a local government manager?


Supplemental Reading

50 Nifty Profiles


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