"I wanted to start in Detroit Lakes, because this is my home."
With those words, Phil Hansen formally launched his campaign for the District 4 position in the Minnesota State Senate to a large crowd of Republican Party faithful at the La Barista coffee shop in Detroit Lakes Thursday morning.
Hansen, a former defensive end with the National Football League's Buffalo Bills, has made the Detroit Lakes community his home for the past 10 years.
"I want to give back," he said of his reasons for seeking public office. "Life has been good to me and my family."
And with the district incumbent, Sen. Keith Langseth planning to retire at the end of 2012, Hansen said he thought now was the time to launch his inaugural campaign.
"I've wanted to do this for a long time, but the time wasn't right," he added. "It's right now."
After his public presentation Thursday morning, Hansen elaborated a little bit on his reasons for running for office at this time.
"My kids are all in school now," he said. "The youngest just went into kindergarten."
While they were young enough to be at home during the day, Hansen said he felt it was important to be available for them as a parent. But now that they're gone for several hours each day, he said, "It seems like an opportune time to enter this race."
Hansen is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge the previously announced DFL candidate for the District 4 seat, incumbent State Rep. Kent Eken, Twin Valley.
Eken decided to run for Senate in part because the state's redistricting plan would put him in the same House district as colleague and friend, Rep. Paul Marquart.
That redistricting plan has also redrawn the lines of Langseth's district. While he has represented District 9 for all of his 32-year career in the Senate, the new boundaries have put his seat in District 4, which is the position that Eken and Hansen now seek.
Hansen, a graduate of North Dakota State University in Fargo, where he earned a degree in agricultural economics, played for the NDSU Bison as a defensive end, earning All-American honors.
He went on to a distinguished 11-year career in the NFL, where he played for the Buffalo Bills in three different Super Bowls. In 2011, he earned a spot on the Bills' "Wall of Fame."
After retiring from football, Hansen and his wife, Dianne, moved to the Detroit Lakes area, where their three children now attend school. He has been active in the local education foundation and is a member of the education board at Zion Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes.
He has also been actively involved in local charitable work, and runs his own small business.
It's small and medium-sized businesses, along with agriculture, that form the backbone of Minnesota's economy, he said during his presentation Thursday.
"It's the entrepreneurs, the business owners who move things forward, not government," he said.
And while he does not have prior experience in public office, Hansen told the crowd at La Barista Thursday that what his experiences as a football player and small business owner would bring to the table is a true knowledge of the importance of teamwork.
"I can't do this alone," he said, adding that while he would be running on the Republican ticket, "I'm a responsible Republican, and a reasonable Republican.
"...I want to bring people together," he elaborated in the press release announcing his campaign. "The government needs to act more like a team, where people hope for and work for each other's success."
In other words, Hansen noted Thursday, he understands the importance of working with others to achieve his goals -- one of the most important of which is to balance the state's budget.
"We can't live beyond our means," he said. "We have to balance the budget."
Hansen believes this can be achieved with a "simple, common sense approach."
Though he was asked about some of the current issues facing the State Legislature, such as whether to build a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings and how to improve the current property tax situation, Hansen said he preferred to defer such questions until he had a full knowledge of those issues.
After his stop in Detroit Lakes, Hansen also spoke in Moorhead and Ada Thursday, thus making an appearance in each of the three counties that encompass Senate District 4: Clay, Norman and three townships in southwestern Becker County.