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Montana Highway Patrol campus proposed to be named after late AG chief deputy Kris Hansen


Montana Highway Patrol campus proposed to be named after late AG chief deputy Kris Hansen

Mar 21, 2023 | 9:40 am ET
By Keila Szpaller
Montana Highway Patrol campus proposed to be named after late AG chief deputy Kris Hansen
Fred and Sue Hansen, parents of the late Kris Hansen, attended a committee hearing to name the Montana Highway Patrol campus in Boulder after their daughter. (Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

Kris Hansen loved to take road trips in Montana, and she took the backroads and the twisting, curvy highways, said her mom, Sue Hansen.

“We miss Kris terribly,” Sue Hansen said last week. “One of the things we miss the most … is those drives around this absolutely beautiful state where she was so privileged to live.”

Kris Hansen, former second-in-command in the Attorney General’s Office, died in July 2022 after leaving her job roughly one month earlier. Her obituary, which did not name a cause of death, said she died with her parents and friends at her side.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 164, to name Montana Highway Patrol headquarters in Boulder after Hansen. The bill passed with 50 yes votes in the Senate.

On those drives across the state, Sue Hansen said her daughter was almost like a school teacher, sharing with her mom and dad, Fred Hansen, all the things she’d read.

On one drive, Hansen passed the closed Montana Developmental Center in Bozeman, and she got the idea it could be used for the Montana Highway Patrol, Sue Hansen said.

She said her daughter was strong-willed as a child — she didn’t like bedtime and resisted getting into her Sunday school dresses — and as an adult, her strong will helped fuel action.

“Kris gets an idea, and she runs with it, and so she did,” Hansen said.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who called his late chief deputy a friend, said the state had been paying roughly $1 million a year in maintenance for the Boulder campus after the legislature closed it in 2015. In the meantime, he said, the Highway Patrol was desperate for space, and he figured a better facility would take years.

“With Kris, this thing happened in just a few months,” Knudsen said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Barry Usher, R-Yellowstone County, noted Hansen was a member of the Montana National Guard, deployed to Iraq, worked for the CIA in Somalia, and lent much support to the Highway Patrol. He said naming the new facility after Hansen, also a former Republican legislator, would be “a great way to honor her work.”

In fall 2021, Hansen played a central role in a high profile dispute between the Attorney General’s Office and St. Peter’s Health. The Helena hospital said state officials threatened staff with legal action if they declined to give a patient treatment that wasn’t approved for the COVID-19 virus — allegations the AG’s Office denied.

During the hearing on the bill, Rep. Tom France, D-Missoula, said he was impressed with the testimony about a person who “profoundly impacted many people around her.” He said he didn’t want to disrespect her memory, and at the same time, he wondered if it made sense to wait a bit on the naming as a matter of policy.

Usher, though, said Hansen was the person who found the facility, so the dedication made sense. He said Hansen loved God: “Maybe it was God’s plan for her to find this facility, and God, knowing when he was going to call her home … had her put the hand on this facility.”

The committee voted 16-2 to forward the proposal to the House floor, with France and Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, voting no.

Usher also said it would be his honor if Chairwoman Amy Regier, R-Kalispell, would carry the bill on the floor. He admitted, though, that Hansen herself wouldn’t support the bill, as Sue Hansen had testified earlier.

“It’s such an honor that’s been proposed for her — and I know she could care less,” Sue Hansen said.