LINCOLN, Neb. — An Omaha woman who runs a preschool was sworn in Thursday to fill an open seat in the Nebraska Legislature, replacing a former lawmaker who resigned.

Theresa Thibodeau was chosen by Gov. Pete Ricketts to fill the spot held by former state Sen. Joni Craighead, who resigned from the Legislature and ended her re-election bid last month. She and her husband, Joe, are the franchise owners of the Primrose School of LaVista, a day care and early education facility that serves young children.

Thibodeau, a registered Republican, will serve in next year’s legislative session and stand for re-election to the nonpartisan seat in November 2018. Another applicant for the seat, Machaela Cavanaugh, is also running in that race.

Thibodeau said elected officials should be held to “the highest standards of honesty and accountability” and that state government should be used “only to solve the problems together that we cannot address by ourselves.”

“We expect action when appropriate, but never at a cost of our personal freedoms or the bright futures all of us worked so hard to build for ourselves and our children,” she said.

Ricketts said he was impressed by Thibodeau’s business experience. Thibodeau, 42, graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and spent eight years working in the human resources and benefits consulting field. She became a stay-at-home mom after her first child turned 1 year old, and then opened the preschool and education center in La Vista in 2014.

“That kind of experience in the real world, having to run a business, is exactly the kind of experience that we want in the Legislature,” Ricketts said.

Thibodeau is the younger sister of Omaha City Councilwoman Aimee Melton. Melton, who attended the swearing-in ceremony, said she encouraged Thibodeau to apply.

“I really think Theresa has done a lot, and she has so much potential to do even more,” she said.

Cavanaugh, a registered Democrat, said in a statement Thursday she is “just as committed today as I have been since I announced my candidacy in July to represent my friends and neighbors in Legislative District 6.”


Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte