Vanta Shafer, the senior Seward City Council member and former city mayor, local owner of Cover to Cover Books, and publisher of The Seward Journal has died after suffering from respiratory-related health issues.
Shafer was recently re-elected to serve another term on the council where she had been representing Seward residents for 14 years since first joining the City Council in 1998, with the exception of a two-year period from 2007-2009.
Shafer was appointed City Mayor in the spring of 2004, after the resignation of the standing mayor, and was subsequently elected as Mayor in October of 2004. She was reelected in October 2005, and served on the council until taking a break in 2007.
After a two-year hiatus, she returned to the council in 2009 and was reelected twice more after that, most recently in October of 2013.
Shafer will be sorely missed in the community. Shafer was a plain-spoken retired schoolteacher, who spoke with a slight southern drawl. She cared deeply about health care, women’s rights, the local business community, the library, and young families struggling to survive. She cared about books, about literacy, about children.
She opened Cover to Cover Books on Third Avenue in downtown Seward in June 2008, and it has been the town’s only bookstore and place where people could display their art, introduce their books, drop by to chat about politics or about their lives to a sympathetic ear.
In recent years she mentored many aspiring young writers, employing them on the staff of The Seward Journal, and caring for them in her, and her husband Bob’s home. They also took in youngsters who needed a home over the years. Shafer provided encouragement, and a venue for local writers, friends, family members, and those with a passion for a certain subject who were willing to write about it, be it fishing, cooking, history or gardening.
Her hometown newspaper also employed young mail carriers, who brought papers to people’s own front doors in the traditional manner that had not been seen for quite some time in Seward. For many children it was their first job, and they shouldered their gray paper bags with pride.
Vanta also worked for a long time at the local hospital and long-term care facility, and at Spring Creek Correctional Center. She was preceded in death by her son Stewart, and leaves behind her husband Bob, son Wesley, daughter Stacy Koster and beloved grandchildren.