Mary Ann Borgeson, who was once an X-ray technician, has spent more than 20 years working on health issues in county government. In fact, she now chairs the National Association of Counties’ Health Steering Committee and is also helping lead the organization’s efforts to address the large number of mentally ill inmates in local jails. But it wasn’t health that originally drew her to government -- it was horses.
As an undergraduate studying public administration, Borgeson came across a proposal by Douglas County to buy the Ak-Sar-Ben Race Track and Coliseum in Omaha, which it eventually did. She opposed the purchase. In researching it, Borgeson became interested in county government and decided to run for the county board. After she won, one of the board’s first actions was to sell the once-treasured facility.
Borgeson says she loves county government because it’s “closest to the people,” especially in her areas of expertise. She was once one of four women on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. Now she’s the only one. Other women, she says, are turned off by anti-government attitudes in the public and in the media. Borgeson says the response shouldn’t be to stay away from government, but to make it better. “That’s why we need to be here.”