Fulton Joins the Nebraska Legislature:
Left: Sen. Tony Fulton, a 1997 College of Engineering alumnus, during legislative debate.
When a 16-year senator says you’re doing fantastic work while you’re still learning the ropes, you know you’re doing something right.
Sen. Tony Fulton, who began serving as state senator this year, is already gaining a reputation for being a well-prepared and astute lawmaker.
“He really studies each issue,” said veteran senator Pat Engel, who serves on the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee with Fulton. “It’s probably that engineering background.”
Fulton agrees that studying mechanical engineering at the University of Nebraska– Lincoln is helping him as a new senator.
“It’s helped me analyze bills, to break things down to their basic elements,” he said. “That’s what engineers do.”
Being appointed by Gov. David Heineman to represent District 29 in south Lincoln is only one of Fulton’s accomplishments.
Halfway into his engineering degree, he took two years off to intensively study philosophy through Kansas Newman University and theology at Mount St. Mary’s University, a private seminary in Maryland.
“It was a time in my life when I was looking for deeper meaning,” he said.
Fulton said this experience has enabled him to look at problems while considering different philosophies and worldviews. This broader perspective has served him well in his profession.
“It’s important not to ignore the liberal arts —it makes for better engineers,” Fulton said.
After graduating in 1997, Fulton worked in Lincoln as a consultant for Alvine Engineering, in sales for Johnston Boiler Company and as an application engineer for Energy Recovery International. He continues to do consulting work for international energy projects.
Somehow, Fulton still makes time to run his own home health care business. He is CEO of Guardian Angels Homecare, a business that started when he was a young boy growing up in Auburn.
“An older lady from church called my mom to ask if she could send someone over to help her. I was the oldest boy, so she sent me.”
Fulton began helping the older woman by cleaning and running her errands. He was paid 50 cents per job and spent it on baseball and football cards—the ones that had gum in the package. That first client referred him to several of her friends who also needed help around the house. Years later, Fulton’s helpfulness has grown into a successful business.
“This has allowed me to do something entrepreneurial as a means to do good, to change the culture for the better. That’s deeply satisfying to me.”
In 1998, Fulton married Judy Vandewalle, a fellow student he met at church while attending UNL. Five children have followed: Thomas and Augustine, 7-year-old twins; Bede, 5; Bernadette, 3; and Basil, 3 months.
Each was named after Catholic saints who were scholars, Fulton explained, except for Bernadette. “We just really liked that name,” he said.
What do his children think of his new post as senator?
“The day I was appointed, I picked them up from school to tell them. They wanted to know if this meant they could get access to see what was behind all the ‘secret doors’ in the Capitol building. They’re excited about the perks,” he said, grinning.