After 29 years as a Umatilla County Commissioner, Bill Hansell had already decided that he was ready to move on when his current term was up.
He thought he might like to try a higher office, but didn't want to run against his friends already representing the region in Salem.
Then in late January, Oregon State Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, announced he wouldn't run again for the seat he's held for 15 years.
"Talking with my wife, my friends and my family, it seems like here's an opportunity that would be a new challenge and a new venue," Hansell told the Herald. "It is what I felt led to do."
With Nelson's encouragement, he filed for the open seat as a Republican on Feb. 4, and within 10 days had the endorsements of every mayor in Umatilla County.
"Bill Hansell is a servant leader and I am proud to be supporting him in his Senate race," said Milton-Freewater Mayor Lewis Key. "The fact that he has the unanimous support of all the mayors in the county he has served for 29 years speaks to his willingness to listen and work closely with city leaders. His commitment to seeing Eastern Oregon prosper and grow will serve all residents extremely well once elected to the Senate."
Hansell said if elected, he plans to be a strong voice for local governments, agriculture and small businesses in Eastern Oregon.
He said he also will work to open federal forest lands for logging to keep Eastern Oregon towns that depend on the timber economically viable.
"Four of our mills will be out of timber in the near future if they're not able to access federal forest lands," he said. "I want to be involved in helping sustain local communities. Natural resources are very near and dear to my heart."
With the filing period closing March 6, Hansell so far is uncontested in the coming May 15 primary. He is running in the state's 29th Senate District, which includes Umatilla, Morrow, Union, Wallowa, Gilliam and Sherman counties and part of Wasco County.
Also uncontested so far are incumbent 57th House District Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, and Umatilla County District Attorney Daniel Primus, who was appointed to the job in August following the resignation of former District Attorney Dean Gushwa after his conviction on an official misconduct charge.
Incumbent 58th District Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, faces opposition from fellow Republican Jack Esp of Echo, who is retired from a career in hospital finance and administration.
The 57th District includes Gilliam, Morrow, Sherman and parts of Umatilla and Wasco counties. The 58th District includes Union and Wallowa counties and part of Umatilla County.