A fiscal conservative, a fourth generation Nebraskan, a commonsense Republican, a champion of agriculture, a statesman, a father and a very proud grandfather...these words all describe Nebraska's Third District's Former Congressman Bill Barrett.
Bill retired January 2, 2001, after serving 5 consecutive terms in Congress. He was first elected to Congress in 1990 and sworn into office January 3, 1991. He represented Nebraska's Third District, one of the largest and most rural congressional districts in the nation. With nearly 63,000 square miles encompassing 66 counties, there was a lot of ground to cover.
But Bill didn't let the many miles separate him from his constituents. He spent almost every weekend in the Third District traveling from town to town so he could speak with his constituents face-to-face. The good relationship he built with his constituents was evidenced by the fact that he was re-elected by more than 75 percent each term, gaining votes from Republican and Democrats alike. In fact, in the 1998 election, Bill had neither Democrat nor Republican opposition in the primary and general elections.
In his first term, Bill lobbied successfully for sought-after posts on key committees-the Agriculture Committee and the Education and Workforce Committee. He worked hard to keep these posts, because of their importance to Nebraskans. His increased seniority helped him to continue to work effectively for business, childcare, education, health care, rural development, agriculture and other issues vital to Nebraskans. Bill served three terms as chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and vice chairman of the full committee, which positioned him to help write two Farm Bills.
Bill Barrett's public service didn't begin in the nation's capital. He started at the grassroots level and has been active in local, state and national politics for many years. He was a member of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature from 1979-90 and served as Speaker the last four of those years.
He served the Republican State Executive Committee from 1964-66 and 1973-79 and was elected chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party from 1973-75. He also served as Nebraska chairman of the President Ford Committee, heading both primary and general election campaigns in 1975-76. He served on the Republican National Committee from 1973-75.
His public service record aside, Bill was a successful small businessman before his years as a Congressman. He served as president of Barrett-Housel and Associates, Inc., a firm specializing in general insurance, real estate brokerage and appraising in Lexington. He was a third-generation member of the firm, founded by his grandfather in 1924. He also served as bank director in his hometown, Lexington. In addition, he's an elder of the Presbyterian Church, a trustee of his alma mater-Hastings College, a Navy veteran and an American Legion Member.
Bill served his Third District of Nebraska well because that's where he was born, raised and educated. He received a B.A. from Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska. He's married to Elsie Carlson Barrett, and they have four children-William, David, Elizabeth and Jane. He and Elsie are also the proud grandparents of Elizabeth "Betsy," Darby and Noah.
Following his retirement from Congress, Bill remains an active speaker, proud grandfather and enjoys traveling as a non-politician. On one of his recent trips the Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C. honored him with the Distinguished Nebraskan Award. Most recently Bill and Elsie traveled to Ireland to celebrate 50 years of a wonderful marriage.