Hansen's 'Work Horse' Mentality Helps Him Build 22-Year Legacy in Congress

Hansen's 'Work Horse' Mentality Helps Him Build 22-Year Legacy in Congress

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News Specialist Shelley Osterloh reportingFor the first time in 42 years, Jim Hansen is NOT an elected official.

The 1st District congressman retired after spending 22 years in Congress, and as of tomorrow, he will be a private citizen.

He said he felt it was time to step down for many reasons. Among them, his age -- he is 70 years old and wants more time with his family and grandkids. He is losing his hearing. He is unhappy with the way his fellow Republicans here in Utah handled redistricting of his district -- he says an independent group should have handed it.

And he is tired of the TRAVEL -- so many trips back and forth from Utah to Washington, D.C.

But despite those complaints, he has loved his life of public service and feels he has accomplished a lot of good.

And through it all, he has not lost his folksy style and sense of humor that have made him one of Utah's most elected and powerful politicians.

James Hansen retires as one of the most senior members of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the only Utahn to ever chair a full House committee, which he has done twice, on the Resources and Ethics Committees.

He was the second-ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and a member of the Intelligence Committee.

"The name of this job is compromise. It doesn't mean compromise your principles, but it does mean seeing that the other person has a good stand," Hansen says.

"I think I'm a home-grown Utah. And basically the culture of Utah, I subscribe to that. That's a sweeping generality, isn't it?" he asks. "But I would think that most people in Utah would understand that. Family values, right and wrong, honesty, that type of thing."

"I know a lot of people that would get in front of that camera and say, 'Hansen is the rottenest S.O.B. that ever came along,' but they don't agree with me on things, but one thing I think is easy, they always know where I stand. People have always said, 'I don't agree with you but I know where you stand,'" he says.

Environmentalists knew where he stood and many regarded him as an enemy. But, Hansen says, it's a matter of balance. He claims many environmentalists are too extreme.

"Wilderness is a romantic word -- that's the pine and the water. Now if I say severely restricted area, that's a negative word, but really, wilderness isn't what it's cracked up to be, and there should be wilderness," Hansen says.

"Jake Garn and I put the whole Uintah Mountains into wilderness. Beautiful. I will go to my grave saying it was the right thing to do. But to designate the whole state of Utah, ruin our economy, stop our recreation, do away with timber, do away with grazing, do away with mining, ruin the whole thing, for what?"

"What do we get out of it? Sure we've got to be careful and I urge people constantly to be good stewards of the ground," Hansen says.

His other battles: He says he's proud of work he did as a young congressman to change and educate people about drunk driving -- and says 4,700 fewer people died the year after he established the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving.

And he says his legislation on private mortgage insurance saves the American public more than $20 million a day in money they paid before.

"The list goes on and on of legislature we feel really good about. We've passed literally hundreds of pieces of legislation. Were they all good? I don't know. I think some of them were. When we defeated President Clinton on keeping Hill Field open, when he was going to move it to California, our office handled that one, that was a 17-month ordeal and we took a lot of flack for that. I've never been cussed out by a president before, but that was kind of fun. I kind of enjoyed that."

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Hansen says he knows about the threats to America. He says even many congressmen don't understand that a strong military is necessary for America's protection.

"I want you to know who the real bad guys are and what they want to do with you and you can read their charter, you can read what they have in mind. They want to kill you. They want to take over our economy. They want to put you as prisoner. They want to put women and children as sex slaves. Does that make you feel good? Oh, that's crazy, radical stuff, but sitting on the committee, you see that," he says.

And after all of that, what is his legacy? How does Jim Hansen want to be remembered?

"That I saved the environment from the environmentalists," he jokes. "No, I'm just kidding. In that regard I would look at that one. That he was a work horse -- not a show horse," he says.

In 42 years, James Hansen never lost an election. That's 12 years on the Farmington City Council, eight years in the State Legislature -- the last two as Speaker of the House, and then 22 years in Congress.

That's quite a remarkable accomplishment.

There have been rumors that he might run for governor, but he says he hasn't decided what's his next step.

If he did run, he would be a strong candidate. Earlier this year, a KSL Deseret News Poll found 69 percent of Utahns say Hansen's legacy in Congress should be viewed as positive.

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