Gov. Pete Ricketts, along with first lady Susanne Shore and several state officials, unveiled the new license plate design Tuesday morning. Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles Director Rhonda Lahm said she expects the state will print about 3 million new plates before the end of the year and start issuing them in January.
The new general plate depicts a mosaic called “The Genius of Creative Energy,” which features a man riding atop the clouds behind a backdrop of lightning and clouds. It is one of dozens of original mosaics designed by artist Hildreth Meiere, but Drew Davies, the brand and design consultant who submitted the design, described it as “the crown jewel” of the Capitol, as it is one of the first pieces visitors see displayed on the floor coming through the building’s main entrance.
Ricketts said the image also represents Nebraska’s agricultural community, whose members routinely come up with creative solutions that help power the state.
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Shore led the plate design project and said she started brainstorming in 2018, after Ricketts was reelected. It wasn’t until late 2021 when they settled on the final design.
Though some may not recognize the image on the plate, Ricketts said he thinks the design will educate Nebraskans about the original art that is available to view inside the Capitol.
“The building is like a history book,” said Capitol Administrator Bob Ripley.
Nebraska’s license plate designs, which are renewed every six years under state law, have encountered a fair share of controversy over the last decade.
In 2009, a plate design contest was hijacked by internet comedy company CollegeHumor, which encouraged its audience to vote for a plain gray design that then won the contest — temporarily. After Omaha World-Herald reporters asked to see the raw data, the company that ran the state website admitted that it had given state officials bad information and that another plate actually had won.
In 2017, Ricketts’ administration selected the design, going with an image of a Sower statue that was supposed to represent the one that sits atop the Capitol. However, The World-Herald later reported that the image was the wrong Sower, and was actually a statue at Michigan State University. The state quickly revised the design to showcase the correct Sower.
Though she stands by the latest design, Shore said she expects the newest plate will see its share of public criticism.
“It is sort of a state sport in every state,” Shore said.
However, she said she hopes over time, the design will come to be known as a beloved license plate for Nebraska.
Correction: This story has been corrected to state Drew Davies current occupation.
Nebraska’s license plates through the years
The celebration that never ended (1976-1983)
Plain label (1984-86)
And we finally have a winner (1987-1989)
But it’s not a Dempster… (1990-1992)
Something for both city and rural folk (1993-95)
If it was good enough the first time… (1996-1998)
Go Big Red! (1997-99)
Just make them bigger this time (1999-2001)
Contest produces a winner (2002-2004)
Yes, we still travel by wagon out here (2005-2010)
Plategate: The vote gets pranked (2009)
Better late than never (2011-2016)
You reap what you sow (2015)
OK, the right Sower, but… (2017-2022)
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