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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

J.J. HANSON, WHO hails from Yuland, is Governor Eliot Spitzer's regional representative.

Hanson's the 'voice'
of the governor
in Mid-Hudson

By Jeanne Sager
POUGHKEEPSIE — February 19, 2008 — Want to put a bug in the ear of the governor?
If you’re from Sullivan, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Greene or Columbia county, you might want to start with J. J. Hanson.
A 1999 graduate of Eldred Central School and homeowner in the Town of Highland, Hanson is the fresh face in state government now representing Governor Eliot Spitzer out of his Poughkeepsie office.
Back from a tour of duty in Iraq and honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in December, Hanson took on the job of “governor’s regional liaison” late last year.
True to Marine Corps tradition, it’s been boots on the ground ever since.
The son of Doreen and Jim Hanson of Yulan has spent the past few weeks making the rounds of municipal offices in the six-county region to get a feel for what his communities need most out of Albany.
Friday he was back out at the government center in Monticello, and he’s working on a report for Spitzer’s office on County Manager David Fanslau’s concerns that the proposed state budget would require a substantial hike in property taxes in Sullivan.
For Hanson, the chance to represent his hometown on a state level is akin to hitting the jackpot.
“For someone 26, 27 years old to be able to do that is great,” he noted. “You’re in the major leagues; you might not be one of the main players, but you’re sitting on the bench!”
When he was a kid, Hanson said he was such a ham people teased him about going into politics.
They never expected he’d make it his college major.
But Hanson is full of surprises.
After he tried getting into West Point in high school but didn’t get the bid, he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies.
Midway through, the 9/11 attacks pushed Hanson back toward the military.
With his grandfather, Walter Kreidell, and uncle both former Marines, he started looking into officer training through the corps.
He graduated from Wilkes in the spring of 2003, started Officer Candidate School the following October.
Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, ironically the same unit in which his grandfather served during World War II.
Hanson’s first deployment with Echo Company, 3rd Platoon, sent him to the Pacific, his second to Iraq.
Sent to Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar Province in western Iraq, Hanson was serving as the company’s executive officer as they moved into the city that once boasted the highest American casualties per capita.
“We flew in at night by helicopter, and there wasn’t a single light on in the entire city,” he recalled.
Their first week on the ground, two soldiers from the company his was replacing were killed, two soldiers in a sister company were shot – one each in the arm and leg, and an IED (improvised explosive device) blew to bits one of the Marines’ Bradley tanks.
“You think of war movies, and that’s what it was,” Hanson recalled.
But the surge of American troops into the province was augmented by the so-called “Anbar Awakening,” the organization of a number of the tribes living in the area against Al Qaeda.
Within a month, the insurgent uprisings had been quelled.
Peace – more or less – reigned in Ramadi.
Which left the next six months of Hanson’s deployment focused on the very things he went to school to do – building a government for the people.
It had to be done from the ground up, he explained.
Garbage pick-up hadn’t been done in three years. There was no electricity, no commerce, no food. The water system had mixed with raw sewage.
Meanwhile news was out that Ramadi was safe, and refugees were pouring back into the city.
Hanson became a civil military affairs officer for his company, helped in the establishment of the district councils which would become the underpinnings of a municipal government.
He traveled the city with his translator, meeting residents, learning what they needed.
“Ninety-five percent of the Iraqis – they just want to go to work, come home,” he explained. “They go to mosque to worship, just like many of us go to church.
“Islamic extremism is a very, very small niche,” he continued.
The people were warm, welcoming.
They offered him chai tea and made references to American television.
They told him they needed fresh water, electricity.
By the time the company left, Hanson said the water and sewage plants were back online, laborers were being paid to clean debris from the streets, and electricity had been restored to much of the city for 14-hour stints each day.
At the end of the seven-month deployment, Hanson said there were two months without a single shot being fired in the city.
The company returned with every Marine who had been deployed.
It’s a story that’s not often told as the war continues, but Hanson said his experience overseas made him not just eager to start a new job in government but ready.
“My most stressful day here doesn’t compare to my most stressful day there,” he admitted with a flash of his easy grin, “but the experience over there prepared me to be able to adapt, to be prepared for anything.”
After internships in the office of Legislator Kathy LaBuda, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector and of course his time overseas, Hanson sailed through his interview with the governor’s office of intergovernmental affairs.
The largest hurdle has been in tackling a region that’s incredibly diverse – from rural Sullivan to the more metropolitan sections of the Hudson Valley.
Hanson and wife Kristen are currently renting a home in Columbia County so he can become better acquainted with that area.
It puts him closer to his office, and slightly closer to Albany where he’s back in school pursuing his master’s degree.
Kristen, another Eldred grad, is able to handle a husband who spends most of his time on the road – in their first two years of marriage, he was away more than he was home.
And Hanson is having the time of his life.
“There’s just so much going on here,” he noted. “It’s between New York City and Albany, and so much transfers through here.
“The small government folks don’t really have a voice in Albany –except through lobbyists,” Hanson continued. “But I’m their voice.”

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