Editor’s Note: Becky Veak retired at the end of August after a career advancing public policy that ranged from the Nebraska Legislature to Capitol Hill and state government to becoming the founding director of First Five Nebraska. We offer her our heartfelt thank you for her leadership and vision in establishing First Five Nebraska and moving our work forward over the past 10 years.
Even as she was beginning her college studies, Becky Veak had an affinity for public policy. She began her career at age 18 by joining State Senator Steve Fowler’s team. Through that experience, she realized it was important to her to continue serving with legislators who showed a commitment to placing the public good above partisanship and political affiliations. Becky went on to work with a succession of respected policymakers in state government, as well as with U.S. Senator Ed Zorinsky on Capitol Hill. Every step of the way contributed to Becky’s growth in mastering the art of negotiating and finding common ground to move policy forward.
In 2007, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation tapped Becky to succeed Jessie Rasmussen as leader of its early childhood policy work. “I arrived knowing next to nothing about early childhood, but a lot about how government and policy worked,” she recalls. “It didn’t take long for me to see why this issue needed to be discussed at the highest levels. That’s how important it is.”
Becky was instrumental in helping the newly created Nebraska Early Childhood Education Endowment Fund, better known as Sixpence, move forward with its initial round of grants in 2008. In 2011, she consolidated Nebraska Children’s early childhood policy work, and as “First Five Nebraska” set about fine-tuning a team that was up to the challenge of working in a rapidly changing legislative environment.
Some of Becky’s proudest career moments involve her role in helping to launch Sixpence’s first round of grants, establishing the evaluation process for Step Up to Quality and forging stronger connections between early childhood research, practice and policy through the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s annual Research Summit.
In 2019, Becky stepped away as First Five Nebraska’s director to focus on leading the organization’s Early Childhood Policy Leadership Academy, an initiative she developed to help citizen leaders become effective advocates for early care and learning programs and the impact they have on communities’ economic growth, workforce development and quality of life.
Becky has played a pivotal role in embedding early childhood in the public conversation at the state and local levels. Her contributions have strengthened early care and learning as a credible, widely recognized and fundamental component in the decisions we make to promote the well-being of all Nebraskans.