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Utah Leaders React After The Death of Former Congressman Jim Hansen, 86

Photo of Hansen portrait.
Judy Fahys / KUER
Former Utah Congressman Jim Hansen died Wednesday at age 86. A portrait, pictured above, of the northern Utah Republican, still hangs in the House Natural Resources Committee hearing room in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Utah Republican and Democratic leaders remembered former Congressman Jim Hansen, Utah’s longest-serving member of the House, who died Wednesday at age 86.

A U.S. Navy veteran, Hansen also served in the State Legislature for eight years, including a term as House Speaker.

Hansen’s 22 years in Congress included a stint as the top Republican on the Ethics Committee during the politically fraught House banking scandal in the early 1990s. During his last term in office, he served as chairman of what was then called the House Interior Committee.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, who succeeded Hansen in representing Utah’s 1st Congressional District, has led what’s now called the Natural Resources Committee for the past four years.

In a statement, Bishop described Hansen, as a trailblazer and a friend.

“I will be forever grateful for the time he took to mentor me in each and every one of these [political] roles,” Bishop said. “His impact on my life, and many others, cannot be overstated.”

Hansen ran for Utah governor in 2004 but lost his party’s nomination to Jon Huntsman, Jr., who went on to become the state’s chief executive. Aside from serving on the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission that assessed the ongoing need for military facilities like Hill Air Force Base, Hansen kept a low profile after that campaign. But his legacy has not been forgotten by Utah political leaders.

In a news release and tweet, retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch called Hansen a friend and “a true statesman,” adding that Utah would not be what it is today without his service.

“Whether it was in the Navy, in the state legislature, or in the halls of Congress, Jim served with honor and distinction, always putting principle before party and others before self,” Hatch said in the statement.

Gov. Gary Herbert released a statement about Hansen’s death, recalling how Hansen became involved in politics to improve the water system in his hometown of Farmington.

“Former Congressman Jim Hansen was drawn into public service for all of the right reasons,” Herbert said. “We need more public servants like Jim Hansen."

Utah Democratic state lawmakers also acknowledged Hansen’s death.

“While Democrats did not always agree with the congressman’s positions, he was fair and respectful,” House Democrats said in a statement said. “He recognized the importance of working across the aisle.”

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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