Guest Columns

SMITH: HE WAS FUN TO BE AROUND…

Mike Strang remembered by his colleagues

The Colorado Statesman

He was one of the few cowboys who could sit on a horse and roll a cigarette with one hand and also with a match light the cigarette all with one hand,” said former Sen. Tillie Bishop from Grand Junction in a phone message about the death of his colleague, Mike Strang.

I called him back and he said, “I remember redistricting back in 1972. We all had these little hand calculators and were trying to run the numbers. It was just a hunt and peck system. Mike was in charge of redistricting for the House and finally found a man who had one of the first digital calculators and we got pretty close.”

He also recalled how Mike used to carry a big boom box radio to the House chambers at 6:30 or 7 a.m. every morning and listen to classical music while he was studying legislation.

Sitting next to Mike in the House, Tillie noticed how Mike always had a pad and pen, would draw wonderful pictures and give them to friends.

After Tillie’s call, I called several other colleagues of Mike’s and got their memories.

Ruben Valdez was the Minority Leader during that reapportionment session and remembers Mike who was in charge of reapportionment in the House as being very fair on the issue of creating districts for minorities. One of those districts would become state Sen. Paul Sandoval’s in Denver. He adds that Mike always had a great sense of humor.

David Gaon, who served in the House from 1973 to 1977 from Denver, describes showing up for his first swearing in. “I didn’t quite know what to make of this tall, patrician looking guy who wore conservative business suits and a Stetson hat. I soon found out that the Republican Party came in many forms including articulate, well-informed conservative people like Mike and that they cared about the state as much as I did.”

Former Congressman Mike Strang.
Photo courtesy of Morgan Smith/The Colorado Statesman

He adds, “I do remember his fierce streak of independence on issues like the environment. It must have gnawed at him in his later years that he would be more at home now in the Democratic Party.”

Bob Kirscht from Pueblo had different memories. He would drink wine with Mike and Bob Ewegen from the Denver Post. “Long before wine became nearly as popular as it is today, Mike was an expert. He was fun to be around, had a way of disarming people.”

In short, Mike was a man who loved his work and the men and women he worked with. He brought humor, dignity and fair play to politics — qualities that are too often missing. Like Tillie, David, Ruben and Bob, I too remember him as someone it was fun to be around.

Morgan Smith is a former state representative and Commissioner of Agriculture. He can be reached at Morgan-smith@comcast.net. You can read more about Mike Strang, who died Jan. 12, in an article by Morgan in our Oct. 7, 2013 issue. You can find it online at: www.coloradostatesman.com/content/994411-mike-strang-%3F-legislator-cowb...