By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – The pumpkin and pecan pies are safe if you’re having Thanksgiving dinner with Alex Straatmann.
“Give me apple pie all day long. Especially when it’s hot and straight out of the oven,” he says. “That’s just my go-to. Easily my favorite.”
It’s always been that way for Straatmann.
“When I was a kid, my mom (Nina) made apple pie for me and pumpkin for everyone else,” he explains. “I guess that has just carried over from my childhood and something that brings back great memories.”
This Thanksgiving, Straatmann is thankful for more than apple pie.
“I paid off my student loans for law school after 19 years and started a new job here at my alma mater,” he says. “I’m so thankful for each of those.”
Straatmann became UNK’s chief compliance officer in September following a 16-year career working as director of constituent services for Congressman Adrian Smith. He is also an active member and major in the U.S. Army Reserve and former president of the Kearney Public Schools Board of Education.
“Coming to UNK has been great. There’s something magical about being on a college campus,” says Straatmann. “To be here, where I graduated 22 years ago, is just special for me. I really appreciate UNK and being part of everything that goes on here to enhance the student experience.”
We asked Straatmann what he’s most thankful for this Thanksgiving:
Thanksgiving Tradition – Running in the YMCA Turkey Trot with my family before lunch. For the last six or seven years, I’ve joined my wife, sister-in-law Amanda Andresen, her husband Chris and any other straggler from our family out there.
Place on Campus – The Fine Arts Recital Hall. My great uncle, Verle Straatmann, performed there many times. He joined Ron Crocker, Wes Hird and Jim Gustafson for holiday concerts at the end of the semester for many years, so the recital hall will always be special to me for that reason.
Mentors – I have three. My Kearney High track coach and history teacher, Roger Mathiesen. I was not a good athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but coach Mathiesen believed in me and pushed me to be a better athlete and person. … Dr. Peter Longo was my pre-law adviser at UNK. Dr. Longo created opportunities for me that impact me still to this day. … I worked for Congressman Adrian Smith for 16 years, and he taught me a lot about public service and to have a servant’s heart. I will never be able to repay these three for their investments in me.
Website/Mobile App – I’m thankful for eBay. I enjoy finding sports memorabilia, especially buying game-worn jerseys. I have a distant cousin, Scott Garrelts, who pitched in the 1989 World Series for the San Francisco Giants. I recently purchased a 1986 jersey that was signed by him. That was a fun find.
Military Experience – I have spent 14 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. I am so thankful for those who will be spending Thanksgiving away from home defending our country.
Sports Memory – Catching a baseball at the old Yankee Stadium from Mariano Rivera. I’m a diehard Yankees fan. In 2008, about a week before the old stadium closed, I found bleacher tickets right behind the Yankee bullpen. They were $12 tickets, and I paid $260 for them. Mariano Rivera came in late to close out the game, and they threw the ball he was warming up with into the stands. I was taller than everybody around me and got lucky and caught it. That ball is one of my life treasures.
Restaurant – Edelweiss German Restaurant in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I usually order the Hungarian goulash and apple strudel. And it’s one of the few places you can get German beer on tap in Colorado Springs.
Hobby – Traveling with my wife, Kim. We appreciate anytime we can go on an international trip, take a week and push pause on our lives. We’re always looking for an excuse to turn the phones off and spend some time together. We’re actually going to Jamaica the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. I’m always thankful for those trips.