|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • A man of his word

    Lenn Hannon gave Southern Oregon three decades of principled leadership
  • In some ways, Lenn Hannon was an old-fashioned politician. In other ways, he was one of a kind.
    • email print
  • In some ways, Lenn Hannon was an old-fashioned politician. In other ways, he was one of a kind.
    Hannon died last week, far too young at 66. He left behind a legacy of hard work in 30 years as a state senator representing the Ashland area.
    Hannon began his political career as a Democrat, defeating longtime Republican Sen. Lynn Newbry in 1974 by just 37 votes. That wasn't his only close race; he was given the nickname "Landslide Lenn" early in his tenure for squeaking by challengers.
    If there is one trait that characterized Hannon over the years, it was his independence. He had a falling out with union supporters who helped him get elected, returning a campaign contribution because he felt they were trying to influence his vote on union legislation.
    He became a Republican in 1980, but was anything but a party-line legislator. He was well-known in Salem for working across the aisle to craft legislation he believed was good for Oregon.
    Among other things, he advocated for a state sales tax to help stabilize Oregon's volatile revenue system — something it is nearly impossible to imagine a Republican doing today. He angered social conservatives when he supported legislation barring local governments from enacting anti-gay rights laws.
    He was an old-fashioned lawmaker in the sense that he fought for state funding for Southern Oregon interests, sometimes bucking his own party to get it done. The list of major projects in this valley that he championed includes the remodeling of the Craterian Theater into a first-class performance center, a new library for Southern Oregon University, and better funding for higher education in general and SOU in particular.
    In 2002, Portland State University awarded him an honorary degree in recognition of his work to reform the state funding system for colleges and universities and his help with developing PSU's University District.
    The $20 million in bonding Hannon secured for the SOU library took some doing.
    Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, who was then in the House, recalled that, at 3 a.m. on the last day of the 2001 legislative session, Hannon "drove this through the Legislature by going eyeball to eyeball with some very angry people (members of the Ways and Means Committee) and said, 'Southern Oregon is not going to get cut out of the budget like it always does at the end.' "
    But despite heated moments like that, Hannon remained cordial with his colleagues, and was respected across the political spectrum for his hard work and his thorough knowledge of the lawmaking process.
    Bill Manny, a former political reporter and later editorial page editor of this newspaper, remembers Hannon in a guest opinion on this page. And Jeff Golden, who lost a narrow race to Hannon in 1990, pays tribute in a letter to the editor.
    We did not always see eye to eye with Hannon, or he with us. But he was always straightforward in his dealings with this newspaper and with his fellow lawmakers.
    Hannon was not afraid to tell you exactly where he stood on an issue and why. And once he made his mind up, he stuck to his guns. He was not a man who changed direction when the wind shifted.
    Above all, Lenn Hannon was driven by a determination to do what he thought was right for his constituents and for Oregon. We — and Southern Oregon — will miss him.
Reader Reaction
      • calendar