Last Updated: 2:39 p.m.
As political appointments go, this one ranks as an upset: Greg Hansen, a long-time Republican operative locally and a member of the GOP Executive Committee, somehow outflanked conventional favorites and won Gov. Rick Scott’s appointment to the Flagler County Commission, finally filling the seat vacated when Frank Meeker died of cancer in July.
Scott picked Hansen, 70, after a long conversation on taxes when the governor asked Hansen to “hold the line on taxes,” and Hansen, a small-government advocate, pledged to do so–and to run for the seat in two years. Scott picked him over other finalists, who had included Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts, who was among the more moderate Republicans in the mix, and Larry Jones, a former Seminole County government administrator who’d been the favorite pick of County Administrator Craig Coffey. Scott had interviewed Netts and Jones as well.
Scott announced the decision to Hansen in an 11:30 a.m. phone call today, but asked him not to speak of it until his office issued a news release. The news began to spread, however, when Politico, the Washington-based publication, broke the story of Hansen’s appointment, focusing on the fact that Hansen is the brother-in-law of Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. Cronyn had written Scott a recommendation letter for Hansen.
“I’m honored and humbled that he chose me, I did not expect it,” Hansen said this afternoon. He said he’d served in government his entire life, mostly in the Navy–he will be the second Navy man on the commission, joining first-year Commissioner Dave Sullivan–notably as a commanding officer and head of Congressional liaison for the Appropriations Committee. He’s familiar with budgeting, bureaucracies and politics. “I just want to get off the bench and get into it again, I’m retired, I just felt I had more energy left,” he said.
The choice is leaving some key officials perplexed.
“I really don’t know him that well, the governor–I assume they’ve done the background. I mean I know who he is to say hello to him, but I don’t know what his career was,” County Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin said. “I’m just glad the governor has made that choice and given us the fifth seat so the commission can move forward, so I’m excited about that part of it.”
McLaughlin said he was not disappointed that another candidate wasn’t picked. He had favored Ed Fuller. “He called me, he was notified, they thanked him,” McLaughlin said of Fuller. “He’s got a good attitude about it, he’s that kind of guy. I don;t get down on too much. We work with what we’ve got. I look at myself in the mirror and say they’ve got to work with what they’ve got.”
Hansen’s pick may have had less to do with local politics than with Scott politics as the governor prepares a likely run for U.S. Senate in 2018, to challenge Bill Nelson: people like Hansen have connections more useful to Scott than do, say, Netts, Jones, and most of the other applicants for the job.
Locally, he was re-elected in November to the Republican Executive Committee, and had formerly been active with the now-defunct Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies of Flagler County. He’s not been attending county commission meetings, but he’s been following issues through the press. “I don’t go into it as a complete novice but I don’t want to say anything on the issues until I’ve heard the staff talk about the issues and the other commissioners, who are all my friends,” Hansen said, with the exception of Commissioner Donald O’Brien, whom he knows less well.
Hansen said he’s followed such issues as the Malacompra drainage project that had become one of Meeker’s signature initiatives. Hansen intends to follow through on that. But he’ll wait on briefings from the county administration before delving deeper into policy. On taxes, however, he did characterize the commission’s tax increase last year as “troubling,” but again–displaying a more deliberative than judgmental approach–he said he’d wait to get more detailed analyses from the administration before going further.
A generous contributor, with his wife, to local Republican candidates and causes, particularly the Republican Executive Committee (in Flagler and Volusia), Hansen’s more sizable contributions in the past several years have gone to candidates who’ve included Ray Stevens in his 2012 run for Sheriff, County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen that same year–but not for Ericksen’s 2016 campaign, by which time Ericksen had lost favor with some of his former supporters on the right side of the GOP–Howard Holley in his 2014 run for the county commission, against Meeker (Holley was among the applicants to the seat), Denise Calderwood in her 2014 run for the county commission, and John Lamb in his run for sheriff last year.
Nationally, Hansen contributed last year to G.G. Galloway’s failed run for Congress, to the Donald Trump campaign. He was a frequent contributor to candidates in congressional races previously, including, back in 2008, to the campaign of a Democrat: John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania congressman who died two years later. At the time, Hansen lived in Fairfax, Va. He’d also contributed to the campaign of Cronyn, who returned the favor with that recommendation letter to Gov. Scott that may have played a key role in getting him the county commission appointment.
A Wisconsin native, a long-time resident of Washington, D.C., and now of Coleridge Court in Palm Coast, Hansen is married to Linda Hansen, also long active in local Republican politics. His decision to apply for the county commission seat was a joint decision with his wife, Hansen said, as was the decision to go all ion for the next election in 2018.
“Commissioner Frank Meeker was an incredible asset to the Palm Coast Community, and will be dearly missed by all,” Scott was quoted as saying in a release his office issued this afternoon. “I am confident that Greg Hansen will work hard on behalf of the residents of Flagler County.”