John McCollister served as a Republican member of the Nebraska Legislature from 2015 to 2023, bringing a moderate approach and focus on transparency to the officially nonpartisan body. His eight-year tenure representing Omaha’s District 20 saw legislative initiatives on issues like redistricting reform, criminal justice, healthcare access, and tax policy. A 2022 campaign for local office brought an end to his time in the state Senate. However, McCollister remained active in politics through teaching, commentary, and advocacy for the reforms that defined his legislative career.
Early Life and Education
John McCollister was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1954. His family owned a successful auto dealership business in the city for over 50 years. He attended the University of Kansas, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in 1976, he briefly attended graduate school at the University of Nebraska Omaha before returning to work for the family business.
Following his education, McCollister embarked on a long career in the automotive industry. He worked as a manager for McCollister’s Automotive, his family’s car dealership business. In 2007, he left to start his own dealership called John McCollister’s Auto Group. It proved highly successful, growing to over $100 million in annual sales across dealerships selling Hyundai, Mazda, and other brands.
McCollister’s business career gave him insights into management, customer service, and employee relations that would later inform his political career. His success in the competitive auto industry also provided a public profile and financial resources useful for transitioning into politics.
Entry into Politics
Despite coming from a Republican family, McCollister was relatively apolitical in his younger years focused on business. However, issues like redistricting reform and transparency in government inspired him to run for office as a moderate Republican.
In 2014, McCollister ran for an open seat in the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature representing District 20 in Omaha. He prevailed in a competitive three-way primary and went on to win the general election.
Nebraska State Senate Career
John McCollister served four terms over eight years in the Nebraska Legislature from 2015 to 2023. His moderation and focus on ethics reform shaped his time in office.
After his initial election in 2014, McCollister was re-elected to the District 20 seat in 2018. He prevailed in the primary over a more progressive Democratic challenger and won the general against a Republican nominee.
Term limits restricted McCollister to eight years in the Legislature. In 2022, he launched a bid for local office instead of seeking re-election to the state Senate.
Tenure and Legislative Priorities
As a state Senator, McCollister prioritized redistricting reform, expanding Medicaid access, and transparency initiatives. He often bucked his party on issues like the death penalty and marijuana decriminalization.
Known for his thoughtful moderate stances, he focused on pragmatic good governance solutions over partisan ideology. McCollister leveraged his business experience to advocate fiscal prudence regarding state budgets and projects.
McCollister served on various committees during his Senate tenure including Banking, Commerce and Insurance, Revenue, and Government, Military and Veterans Affairs. These committee roles allowed him to shape fiscal and ethical oversight legislation.
McCollister introduced bills on issues like nonpartisan redistricting, criminal justice reforms, tenant rights, healthcare access, tax policy, election administration, and transparency. While most did not advance in the officially nonpartisan but Republican-dominated Legislature, the legislation reflected his reform priorities.
2022 MUD Board Election
Term limits ended McCollister’s legislative career in 2023. He launched a 2022 campaign for local office but came up short.
McCollister competed in a three-way primary for a seat on the Metropolitan Utilities District board. He finished first, advancing to the general election along with the second-place incumbent.
In the November 2022 general election, McCollister lost his bid for the MUD Board seat to the incumbent he had finished ahead of in the primary. The loss brought his political career to an end after eight years as a state senator.
John McCollister charted a moderate path that sometimes contradicted his partisan affiliation.
Political Party Affiliation
McCollister ran for office as a Republican. However, he often opposed the party’s conservative stances on issues like Medicaid expansion. This led some Republicans to support primary challengers against him, though he prevailed.
On issues like immigration, criminal justice reform, and tax policy, McCollister adopted more moderate positions than many in his party. His bipartisan approach and pragmatism earned him respect from Democrats despite party differences.
After leaving the Legislature, McCollister remained active in public service and political commentary.
Teaching and Lectures
His experience in office made McCollister a sought-after lecturer on government and leadership. He taught classes at local colleges about civic engagement.
McCollister also frequently contributes political commentary to media outlets. He uses this platform to advocate for moderate, ethical governance in nonpartisan terms.
Outside his professional life, McCollister has always valued family, faith, and community engagement.
Family and Religion
McCollister and his wife have four adult children. Active in the Presbyterian church, he serves as a deacon and adult Sunday school teacher.
Interests and Hobbies
In his limited free time, McCollister enjoys golfing, attending performing arts events, and supporting the Kansas University basketball team. He serves on numerous nonprofit boards focused on education, ethics, and the arts.
Legacy and Impact
While unable to fully achieve his reform vision, McCollister leaves behind a legacy of integrity and principled politics.
McCollister modeled a practical bipartisan approach oriented around shared goals rather than partisan rancor. He built unlikely coalitions and won respect across the ideological spectrum.
Focus on Ethics and Reform
A passion for transparency, redistricting reform, and clean government drove McCollister’s political career. He consistently highlighted ethics and structural reforms over divisive wedge issues that often dominate politics.
Through his moderation and reform advocacy, John McCollister introduced a principled voice during a contentious time in Nebraska politics. His civic-oriented leadership provides an example relevant far beyond the Legislature. McCollister’s career reflects the positive impact possible when experienced, thoughtful citizens step up to serve.
What party did John McCollister belong to?
Despite a moderate political stance, McCollister ran for office and served as a member of the Republican party. However, he diverged from the GOP on major issues and won the respect of some Democrats as well.
How long was John McCollister in the Nebraska Legislature?
McCollister served a total of four terms over eight years in the Nebraska Legislature from 2015 to 2023. He retired due to legislative term limits after the maximum allowed tenure.
What election did John McCollister lose in 2022?
In 2022, McCollister ran for a seat on the Metropolitan Utilities District board but lost the general election to incumbent Mike McGowan after placing first in the primary.
What committees did John McCollister serve on?
During his legislative tenure, McCollister served on the Banking, Commerce and Insurance, Revenue, and Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committees among others.
What legislation did John McCollister sponsor?
McCollister introduced various bills on redistricting reform, criminal justice, healthcare access, tenant rights, and transparency issues. However, most failed to advance in the Republican-led Legislature.