Anne C. (Howell) Boyle 2/8/19 02/07/19 11:44:41 PM
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Anne C. (Howell) Boyle
December 22, 1942 – Feb. 2, 2019
‘An Extraordinary Woman and a Patriot’One of the giants of the Democratic Party in Omaha, Anne C. (Howell) Boyle passed away at home last Saturday at age 76, after suffering a stroke earlier in the week.
During her decades in politics and in the public eye, she held her family’s banner high, contributing greatly to their legacy.
In a profile story published 20 years ago when Anne ran for the Public Service Commission, she was quoted as saying that although she had been happy playing a supporting role in campaigns, “The incumbent chose not to run, so I did.”
She was no stranger to politics though. Her great-grandfather, Edward E. Howell, served on the Omaha City Council, and was elected to the Nebraska Legislature in 1896 and her grandfather, Sam J. Howell, served in the legislature in the 1930s. Her aunt, Marge Higgins, was a state legislator. Her father, Sam J. Howell Jr., was Douglas County Treasurer for 38 years – “the dean of the courthouse.” And her husband Mike, now a Douglas County Commissioner, was mayor of Omaha.
Anne served on the campaign staffs of U.S. Senators Ed Zorinsky and Bob Kerrey and was on the Senate staff of U.S. Senator James Exon. She headed up the Bill Clinton for President and re-election campaigns, in Nebraska and was a delegate to several Democratic National Conventions.
Anne Boyle was that rare public servant who chose to do what was right, not expedient. She spoke her mind. Anne, when running for Nebraska lieutenant governor in 2010, said, “It is incumbent upon politicians to stand up and say this is wrong and not be afraid of the repercussions, and I am not.”
She retired in 2015 from her post on the Nebraska Public Service Commission – the first woman elected in its 130-year history – where she served for nearly 20 years. But retirement didn’t mean relaxation. She continued her work campaigning for Democratic candidates and causes. She also served as the Nebraska Democratic Party chair and the Douglas County Democratic Party chair.
The Douglas County Democratic Party (DCCP) issued a statement: “Over the length of her career, she focused on protecting Nebraskans from unprincipled business practices by some of the State’s largest companies, and sparked a movement which saw unprecedented numbers of women candidates run for elected office this past year.”
DCCP Executive Director Scott Packer said, “I first met Anne shortly after I began working with the Douglas County Democratic Party. She always had good advice for me, and was quick with a good story and a laugh. More than that, Anne was one of the great leaders of the Democratic Party in Nebraska. She always looked out for the little guy and wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed in, even in the face of incredible pressure. I’ll miss her wit, her humor and her incredible spirit.”
Jim Cavanaugh, who serves on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners with Mike Boyle, said, “Anne was a great, great lady. She will be missed by all who knew and loved her.
“The contributions she made to public service are second only to the contributions she made to her family life. She was a wife, mother, public servant … we’ll miss her. I’m really, really sorry to see her go. It was an honor and joy to know her and work with her.
“Our families have been friends and supporters for generations. I knew her even before she and Mike married – more than 50 years. They made a great team, and a great couple.”
The Democratic Party also posted a message on Facebook, “Anne Boyle was an extraordinary woman. A champion of the underdog, a leader of the Democratic Party, and a patriot, Anne spent her career in politics advocating
for the people and holding both government and private institutions accountable to the people. Her advocacy showed the extent of her spirit, and now we are left with the memories she gave us, the good works she did, her enduring legacy.
“Anne was one of the best, and her spirit of resilience and good humor will be sorely missed.”
Kara Eastman, who narrowly lost her bid for Congress last fall, was unavailable for comment, but posted on her Facebook page: “Tonight my husband and I lost a friend, mentor and another mother to us. The world needs more people like Anne. Her spirit, love of life, care for her family and community, and her humor are unsurpassed. It feels as if a light has gone out that cannot be replaced.”
Crystal Rhoades, Boyle’s successor at the Public Service Commission, said, “Anne was really dynamite. She worked hard at consumer protection and advocacy. She was well respected on both the local and national level – a tremendous success. And she worked hard to develop leadership, mentoring many. She tried to guide and teach those coming up in public service. She was an amazing woman and we’ll miss her so much.”
Anne is the oldest of 12 siblings. She is survived by her husband, five children – Maureen, Michael, Pat, Jim and Maggie, and 18 grandchildren. She has been quoted as saying, “Mike and I feel our greatest gifts in life are our family and friends.”
Visitation and funeral services will be Saturday at Heafey Hoffmann Dworak Cutler, 7805 W. Center Road. Visitation will be from 9 to 11 a.m., with funeral services following at 11 a.m. The day after the funeral, Anne will be honored for her commitment to equality. The event will be held Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at Metropolitan Community Church, 819 S. 22nd St. Memorials are suggested to: The Women’s Fund of Omaha, 1111 N. 13th St., Ste. 106, Omaha, NE 68102.
– By Lorraine Boyd