Biography
Senator Philip Erdman
Cheryl Wolff - Leg. Aide
Melissa Hilty Lunsford - Administrative Assistant & Agriculture Committee Clerk
Rick Leonard - Research Analyst
Senator Philip Erdman

Philip Erdman, a native of Bayard, Nebraska, is a proven leader, and a strong supporter of family values. He was elected in November 2000 to represent Nebraska's legislative District 47, which consists of the state's southern Panhandle. Phil ran against an incumbent senator and won election with more than 54 percent of the vote.


In the Legislature, Erdman serves on the Health and Human Services, General Affairs, and the Nebraska Retirement System Committee. He is currently the Chair of the Agriculture Committee as well as the Vice-Chair of the Rules Committee. Phil was re-elected by the 3rd District Caucus to represent them as one of the members on the Executive Board of the Legislature.


During Phil's service in the Legislature, he has focused on representing the 47th District with the conservative values he campaigned on and won election twice. Among his legislative accomplishments, Phil prioritized a bill that would have banned publicly funded research on fetal tissue obtained from induced abortions. He has supported and co-sponsored numerous bills and is proud of his stance on family values.


Phil has opposed higher taxes at all levels and has been willing to stand when few stood with him. He was one of only 4 members to vote to protect property tax relief and one of 11 senators to oppose the highest tax increase in state history.


Phil has also focused directly on issues close to home by successfully amending the redistricting bill to ensure logical and appropriate legislative districts in western Nebraska. He also prioritized a bill to help our rural health services by allowing trained EMTs to be employed by the hospitals throughout the state. In the 2005 session, Erdman prioritized a proposal to reform our Medicaid system to better serve those who need help, while still providing necessary review the high percentages in growth in the cost of the program.


Finally, Phil has also introduced legislation to protect our state's judicial system from constitutional challenge by making the change for carrying out Capital Punishment from electrocution to lethal injection.


Since mid-2001, most states have faced major budgetary struggles. Phil has been in ardent opposition of the major tax increases that have been passed by the Nebraska Legislature. In addition to his fight for realistic tax policies and limited government, Phil offered a complete rewrite of the state budget in the 2003 session that would have saved the tax payers over $100 million and still protected funding for K-12 education as well as the property tax payers. Unfortunately for the tax payers of the state the amendment was not adopted but failed by only 6 votes.


In 2001, Phil was selected to serve as Nebraska's representative on the Council of State Governments' Agricultural Policy Task Force. He attended the CSG Task Force's May meeting in Washington D.C. to work with representatives from other state legislatures on the federal farm bill.


The skills Phil acquired through his work and educational experiences have helped him effectively represent the people of the 47th district. Phil graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in May 2000 with a bachelor's degree in agriculture education. During school, he served on the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Advisory Board, as well as the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Curriculum Committee. Phil was also inducted into the Alpha Zeta Agricultural Honorary Fraternity and the Gamma Sigma Delta Honorary Fraternity.


His work experiences have been very influential in shaping his work ethic, energy level, and attitude. Phil farmed in the Bayard area for many years, until recently when he accepted a position as a real property appraiser for a bank in western Nebraska.


"Being a farmer requires a number of different skills," says Phil. "I learned my strong work ethic as well as fiscal responsibility, not to mention strong family values, during my time on our family farm."


After his graduation, Phil worked for Farmland Industries as youth leadership intern coordinator. He also served as president of the Nebraska FFA Association. In both experiences, he gained valuable management and statewide leadership skills that continue to benefit him as a state senator.


With a strong belief in the importance of technology to businesses, Phil designed web pages for state agencies and organizations for three years during college and has also worked as a business strategy consultant for farmer owned cooperatives throughout the Midwest.


"As we continue to become more technologically advanced it is important to understand the value and the opportunities that our resources can provide," Phil says. "That is why I have created a daily web log that links me to my constituents during my service."


Erdman is the only Senator who has a daily blog on Legislative activities. As he did during his campaign, Phil places high priority on accessibility as a senator. During the session, he spends his weekends returning home to the district to hold "Forums with Phil," meetings open to the public designed to gather feedback from constituents. In addition to the numerous visits to towns from Paxton to Bushnell, Phil provides constituents with a toll-free office number and a highly interactive and informative website.


Phil and wife Cortney and daughter Grace reside in Bayard. Phil's parents Steve and Cathy farm in the Bayard area where Steve is a Morrill County Commissioner. Phil also has two brothers, Craig and wife Emily of Scottsbluff, NE; Nick of York, NE. Craig is a NCAA basketball referee and seed sales manager for Panhandle Coop. Craig is also a Scottsbluff City Councilman. Nick is a graduate of Chadron State College and is employed as an ag production specialist for Agri Cooperative of Holdrege, NE.



Cheryl Wolff - Legislative Aide

Cheryl Wolff grew up on her parent's farm outside of Hutchinson, Minnesota. She attended Union College in Lincoln for two years and then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she received her bachelor's degree in International Affairs with minors in Economics and History.


While at Union College, Wolff belonged to the International Club and worked her sophomore year as a Teacher's Assistant in the Humanities Department. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she worked full-time to fund her undergraduate studies.


Wolff graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law and was admitted to the Nebraska Bar in September of 2004. Throughout law school Wolff was involved with the Student Bar Association and was a member of the Moot Court Board from 2002 to 2004. She clerked for the law firm of Harding, Shultz and Downs in Lincoln for almost two years while in school.


Wolff's parents, Charles and Berniece Anderson, reside in Hutchinson, Minnesota. She is the fourth of nine children with four brothers and four sisters. Two of her sisters, Missy and Christy, currently live in Omaha, Nebraska.


Cheryl and her husband, Scott, have been married for seven years and live in Lincoln.



Melissa Hilty Lunsford - Administrative Assistant and Committee Clerk to Agriculture Committee

Melissa Hilty Lunsford grew up in Gering, Nebraska. As a junior in high school, she and four other students were selected to be ushers for the Governor's Inaugural Ball by Senator Adrian Smith. Upon graduating high school, she moved to Lincoln to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


During her time at the University, Melissa was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority for three years. She was involved with the Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values and Friends of the Deaf Community. Melissa graduated with honors and attained a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies with a minor in English.


Melissa's mother and step father, Cheryl and Roy Kizzier, reside in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her mother has been an Administrative Assistant in the Nebraska Legislature for 8 years. Melissa's father and step mother, Gary and Carol Hilty, reside in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is the youngest of three daughters and has an older step brother and step sister, and two younger step brothers.


Melissa has experience in reception work, as well as, planning and organizing events for volunteer organizations.


Rick Leonard - Ag Committee Research Analyst

Rick Leonard is an eighteen-year veteran of the Nebraska Legislature's staff, beginning as a legislative aide to former state senator Lowell Johnson in 1988. Since February, 1996, he has served as Research Analyst for the Agriculture Committee under the Chairmanships of Senator Merton "Cap" Dierks, Senator Bob Kremer and its current Chairman, Senator Philip Erdman. Rick's career in legislative government began as a member of the Washington, D.C. staff of former Congresswoman Virginia Smith from 1986 - 1988.


Rick received a B.A. in Political Science from Kearney State College in 1986, and has taken advanced coursework in paralegal studies and Community and Regional Planning at Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. During 1998 and 1999, Rick also provided research support as a graduate assistant for the Nebraska Groundwater Foundation through the UNL Water Center for the Foundation's participation in the Water Sector Analysis Team of the first U.S. National Assessment of the Impacts of Global Climate Change completed in 1999. Excerpts of his work are included in the final report of the Water Sector Analysis Team and he is also co-author of an article on the topic of climate change published in the April, 2000 edition of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.


Rick graduated from Wheatland High School in Perkins County in 1979. His parents, Dick and Betty Jo Leonard, at one time lived on and managed a farming/ranching operation near Elsie, Nebraska and later operated the grain elevator in Elsie. His father was also a Pioneer seed salesman and owned a small feed business at the time of his death. In addition to assisting his family in operating these businesses, Rick was employed as a farm/ranch hand with various Elsie area producers throughout high school and college.


Rick was married to his wife Denise in March, 2003 and they reside currently in south Lincoln. Rick is the third of six children. Two of his brothers are employed by BNSF Railroad and live in Bayard and Alliance. A sister, Patty, lives near North Platte.



"The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen"
© 2007 Philip Erdman
All rights reserved.