Aug 02, 2016 08:34AM
By Anthony Flott
It doesn’t take long to discover some dirty business in Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov's past—and that’s a good thing.
More than a century ago, Polikov’s paternal grandfather, Benjamin, left a small village outside Kiev, Ukraine, and came to the United States. A peddler in his native land, he did similar work here, earning enough to bring his wife and three children to the United States as well.
Eventually, Benjamin began Aksarben Junk Co. at 13th and Webster streets. His son Abraham—Lee’s father—joined the business.
Lee remembers accompanying him on the half-Saturdays his father would work. “We’d sit and watch the scale,” he says. Mostly, though, his father wanted him to “stay out of the way.”
Abraham wanted something different for his son: “Get an education, assimilate, adapt, and grow,” Polikov says.
Polikov has done that and more, establishing a career peddling justice rather than junk.
He’s done so as Sarpy County’s attorney since 1999. He was first appointed to the position but has since earned re-election four times.
“I’ve had a fortunate career, both in law enforcement and prosecution as the chief law enforcement officer,” he says. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction.”
Even if it’s not the career he initially envisioned.
A 1966 Omaha Westside graduate, Polikov earned a business degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a commission as first lieutenant with the U.S. Army while serving in ROTC. Next came a degree from UNL College of Law.
“My goal, my ambition, was to do federal law enforcement,” he says.
But the feds, he recalls, were under a hiring freeze then. Instead, Polikov made his way to Sarpy County, where Pat Thomas had taken over the sheriff’s office. Polikov joined him as an administrative assistant, but with an agreement that he’d be there just a year until he started looking again for a federal gig.
“That just never happened,” says Polikov, who eventually became chief deputy and counsel in the office.
Pat Thomas remained Sarpy County Sheriff for 32 years. Polikov stayed with him until he was appointed to his current post. Today, he manages a staff that includes 23 attorneys and 75 support staff. “Which is really a rather large law firm,” he says. “I’ve got a great team. We feel we’ve been able to provide a good, safe community for people.”
Polikov is 67 now and has been Sarpy County’s attorney for 17 years. A great time, perhaps, to call it quits and spend days of leisure with his wife of nearly 40 years, longtime Mannheim Steamroller director of communications Terry Calek?
Polikov says he has no plans to retire.
“It’s a great job. I enjoy it immensely,” he says. “I like the association with the staff and what we do, and those successes go beyond putting people in prison or setting people up to go to prison. It’s helping people that need help.”
Visit sarpy.com/attorney for more information. Sixty-Plus in Omaha