Whatcom County GOP stalwart Don Hansey dies at 85

Don Hansey, who represented Whatcom County in the Legislature as a Republican for much of the 1970s and then served on the County Council for more than a decade, died Friday, April 3. He was 85.

“He was the grand old man of the conservative movement in the county,” said Tom Burton of Blaine, a former council colleague of Hansey’s.

Charlie Crabtree, chairman of the Whatcom County Republican Party, said Hansey displayed his commitment to the GOP cause by staying active at the grass-roots level as a precinct committee officer and committee member long after he stepped down from the Legislature and the council.

“It’s a rare thing,” Crabtree said. “He was always the party guy.”

Born in Everett, Hansey spent most of his life in Whatcom County. A 1947 graduate of Bellingham High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Washington, then served with the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

He owned Birchwood Farms, a chicken and egg-hatchery business, from 1951 to 1984, then owned and operated Cascade Flight Service and was a financial planner before he retired.

Hansey served as an appointed Republican state senator in 1968, followed by a term in the state House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977, serving two years from the 42nd District and then four years from the 40th District.

In 1977, he was elected to, and chaired, the county Board of Freeholders that drafted the county’s home rule charter. Voters approved the measure, which created the county’s current seven-member council and its elected county executive form of government. Hansen served three terms on the council, from 1979 to 1992.

Craig Cole said that when he joined the council, Hansey gave him some good advice:”Be tough on issues, nice on people.”

“It was a great lesson,” Cole said. “He didn’t take disagreements personally. ... Don was very conservative, but he was not an ideologue.”

Cole and Burton both said Hansey’s time in the Legislature made him a thoughtful, well-prepared member of the council. And while Hansey wasn’t always on the prevailing side, his knowledge of the issues forced other council members to be equally ready.

“I always appreciated his preparation and I certainly appreciated his point of view,” Burton said.

Hansey lost to Shirley Van Zanten in his 1991 campaign for county executive, and lost his 2003 bid to unseat Terry Bornemann from the Bellingham City Council’s 5th Ward seat.

Hansey was honored the county party’s Republican of the Year in 2007, and received its Lifetime Achievement Award last year.