Harding receives George Norris Policymaker Award


Mary Harding has strong feelings about public power and rural advocacy.

Her passion for these issues has become the focus of her work, as she has been a member of the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) Board of Directors since 2003. And, until recently, served as the only woman on the board.

Mary’s dedication has not wavered over the years, which has led the Center for Rural Affairs to bestow upon her the 2017 George Norris Policymaker Award. She was recognized at a ceremony on March 9 in Red Cloud, Nebraska.

The George Norris Policymaker Award is given to an individual who employs bipartisanship, compromise, and consensus to improve policy outcomes for family farms and rural communities.

“The award is reserved for policymakers who truly rise above our expectations in advocating for issues that matter to rural communities,” said Johnathan Hladik, policy program director for the Center. “Mary urges staff and management to carefully consider the long-term impact of proposed actions, and notes alternatives that aim to reduce carbon emissions in Nebraska.”

Mary has also been an invaluable resource for environmental and renewable energy advocates in the state, providing useful insight on NPPD and alerting the Center to opportunities for engagement.

“She remains one of few directors who have been an advocate for greater investment in renewable energy resources,” Hladik said.

“I remember creating this award; I wanted it to go to someone who would fight for an issue, and that is true about Mary,” said Lu Nelsen, policy program associate for the Center. “She has been an advocate for renewed energy, even though it has been an upright fight, but it’s paying off. Mary sought out the hard questions and has never stopped working to get more answers from management.”

Mary says she’s humbled by receiving the award.

“I am struggling to say the right words to express how much I appreciate it,” she said. “Never have I worked in an environment where we are more committed to our customers than rural Nebraska, and it’s a tremendous honor to have received this award.”

In addition to serving on the NPPD board, Mary has held the position of executive director of the Nebraska League of Conservation Voters, as well as executive director of the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund. She’s also served as a legislative representative for manufacturers, retailers, agricultural production organizations, and environmental/public interest groups.

Mary is a seventh generation Nebraskan. She and her husband, Richard Erickson, make their home in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they also operate a residential rental property business.

Feature photo: Mary Harding receives the George Norris Policymaker Award from Lu Nelsen, Center for Rural Affairs policy associate. | Photo by Rhea Landholm