Guest Column

Mike Enzi goes down in history as one of Wyoming’s great leaders

By Bill Sniffin
Posted 8/10/21

If Wyoming were to build a Mount Rushmore celebrating its greatest leaders, a strong case could be made to put the late Mike Enzi’s image up there on the wall.

Here in the Cowboy State, we …

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Guest Column

Mike Enzi goes down in history as one of Wyoming’s great leaders

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If Wyoming were to build a Mount Rushmore celebrating its greatest leaders, a strong case could be made to put the late Mike Enzi’s image up there on the wall.

Here in the Cowboy State, we use terms like “still waters run deep” — that is the type of compliment one would give the late senator.

Our great friend died July 26 from injuries he suffered in a bicycle accident that occurred July 23 in his beloved hometown of Gillette.

I reached out to his wife Diana who said: “We are all still reeling from the shock and loss but we know Mike is with the Lord. We hold the vision of him fishing in heaven in our hearts. Memories are precious and we have many.” 

His funeral took place Friday at the Pronghorn Center at Gillette College, just off Enzi Drive. 

As a longtime journalist in Wyoming, it has been my good fortune to become good friends with many of our state’s greatest leaders. 

I first got to know Mike when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1996. 

He came into our newspaper office in Lander. He was a big friendly guy. I confided that I may need to cut the interview short because I needed to go coach my son’s baseball team.

“Well, heck, let’s go now,” he said. “Can I tag along? Frankly, that sounds like a lot more fun.” 

He hung around for the entire practice and even hit a few balls to our infielders. We sat in the dugout for 20 minutes afterward for a quick interview. He always referred to that as one of his most pleasant stops during his many campaign seasons.

When my wife Nancy won the Jefferson Award, we went to Washington, D.C., and, again, spent way more time than was allotted with him in his office.

My first coffee table book was “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders.” Enzi jumped at the chance to write the section about the North Platte River system. 

Enzi’s first lines in the book were: “My North Platte: It’s More Than Just a River. It’s a Link to Our Past — And the Path to Our Future. By Mike Enzi, Fisherman and U.S. Senator.” Very eloquent, as always.

He fished that great river in all parts of the state as he and Diana travelled around every weekend meeting with constituents and solving problems.

Solving problems? Heck, he was an accountant. His national nickname was “America’s Accountant.” No man did more in the last 24 years to try to balance the federal budget and get national spending under control than Mike Enzi.

He was a doer. He was an expert at getting bills passed. Nobody else even comes close. He was responsible for the Senate passing hundreds of bills during his four terms, getting them signed by four different presidents.

Talk is cheap when it comes to reaching across the aisle to the other party during these divisive times, but Mike Enzi was more successful at it than anybody else.

He and Diana invited Nancy and me to lunch Nov. 18. They were making a sort of farewell tour around the state. At Cale Case’s Summit Restaurant — inside the Inn at Lander — I suggested they try the fish and chips, which they agreed was delicious. 

Mike and Diana Enzi had a wonderful marriage. They were inseparable which explains how they got along so well in their 50-plus years together.

Mike loved sports and enjoyed watching kids play sports, especially his son Brad and grandson Trey.

Jim Angell, the editor at Cowboy State Daily and a former Associated Press correspondent for Wyoming, passes along this anecdote from watching Enzi in the Wyoming Legislature:

“Mike’s reputation as a major basketball fan is well known. And there was no player he was a bigger fan of than his son, Brad.

“While Mike was serving in the state Senate, there was a vote on some big issue coming up. Mike had warned legislative leaders he would not be in the chamber that Friday afternoon because his son, a senior, was playing his last basketball game for Gillette High School. Mike had seen every one of his son’s basketball games and there was no way he was going to miss this one.

“The debate dragged on and on and finally, Friday evening, the final vote was taken. It was a tie. Only member of the Senate missing was Mike Enzi. He was in Gillette.

“When Mike returned to the Capitol on Monday, several of us in the media asked him about why he was gone. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect that politics is transitory — family is forever. My respect for Mike went to a whole new level.” 

The town of Gillette, the state of Wyoming, the United States, and the world are all better places because of the lifelong dedication of Mike Enzi.

A giant has left us.

His shoes are impossible to fill.

Godspeed, Mike, friend to us all.

 

(Bill Sniffin, a longtime journalist from Lander, is the publisher of the digital daily news service Cowboy State Daily, which is online at www.cowboystatedaily.com. It offers a daily newsletter, sent to your email address for free.)

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