- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Former Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming died Monday “surrounded by his family” at a hospital in Loveland, Colorado, following a Friday night bicycle accident in Gillette, Wyoming, and a medical evacuation flight for additional treatment. He was 77.

Around 11 p.m. Mountain, Mr. Enzi’s Twitter account delivered the news: “Former Wyoming U.S. Senator Mike Enzi passed away peacefully today surrounded by his family.”

A subsequent message added, “His family expresses their deep appreciation for all of the prayers, support and concern. They now ask for privacy and continued prayers during this difficult time.”

That message concluded: “The family is planning to hold a celebration of a life well-lived, with details to be shared later.”

The Enzi family earlier Monday said the four-term senator was at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies. Media reports indicated he was still unconscious on Monday morning, having sustained a broken neck and broken ribs.

“One of the best basketball fans in the country needs giant prayers tonight after a bike wreck and life flight last night,” Mr. Enzi’s son, Brad, tweeted Saturday. “… Any and all prayers and thoughts accepted, no denomination or creed preferred. Just lift him up.”

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On the Senate floor Monday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the chamber was indeed praying for Mr. Enzi.

“Mike’s colleagues on both sides of the aisle were sorry enough to see him depart the chamber and begin his well-earned next chapter just a few months ago,” Mr. McConnell said. “I know members on both sides are very much thinking of Mike at this time. We are praying for his health and for the entire Enzi family.”

Speaking with reporters Monday afternoon on Capitol Hill, Sen. Cynthia Lummis, the Wyoming Republican who succeeded Mr. Enzi in January, noted she had served with him in the Wyoming House of Representatives and the Wyoming Senate. And during her three terms in the Congress, Ms. Lummis was part of the Wyoming congressional delegation with Mr. Enzi, she added.

“As I always like to say in Wyoming I’ve been following him around like a puppy dog, pretty much my whole life,” an emotional Ms. Lummis told reporters. “We’ve been very dear friends for many, many decades and he’s [the] salt of the earth, [a] great guy. I prayed for him like crazy; I can’t get him off my mind.”

Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican and the state’s senior senator, tweeted Monday afternoon: “Please join Bobbi and me in praying for our dear friend Mike Enzi, his wife Diana, and their entire family.”

According to the Gillette, Wyoming, News Record newspaper, Mr. Enzi was found unresponsive on Morningside Drive. Apparently, Mr. Enzi’s Apple Watch had sent a distress call; at roughly the same time, police received a report of a man lying in the roadway.

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A former mayor of Gillette, Mr. Enzi entered the Senate in 1997, following two terms in the House of Representatives. He earned a reputation as one of the chamber’s most conservative members, but one with friends across the political spectrum.

On social media, those he served and others who encountered him shared their grief and remembrances.

“I met him once when he came to a business plan competition” at the University of Wyoming, wrote Bridgette Braig, now a marketing professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. “He was in it for [Wyoming]. He showed up and genuinely cared. He wasn’t even my senator and I could see that. RIP Senator. You mattered,” she added.

David H. Peck, publisher of the Lovell Chronicle newspaper in Lovell, Wyoming, tweeted: “Our prayers are with Diana and Brad. Mike was a great and kind man. So very sad. He deserved a long and enjoyable retirement.”

Senate Chaplain Barry Black, an 18-year veteran of the chamber, told The Washington Times via email that Mr. Enzi “exuded ethical congruence. His spiritual fitness inspired many.”

Mr. Black added, “He continued his weekly participation in the Senate prayer breakfast online, even after returning to Wyoming. He will be missed.”

A former shoe salesman first elected to the Senate in 1996, Mr. Enzi became known for emphasizing compromise over grandstanding and confrontation to get bills passed.

His “80-20 rule” called on colleagues to focus on the 80% of an issue where legislators tended to agree and discard the 20% where they didn’t.

“Nothing gets done when we’re just telling each other how wrong we are,” Mr. Enzi said in his farewell address to the Senate in 2020. “Just ask yourself: Has anyone ever really changed your opinion by getting in your face and yelling at you or saying to you how wrong you are? Usually, that doesn’t change hearts or minds.”

Wyoming voters reelected Mr. Enzi by wide margins three times before he announced in 2019 that he would not seek a fifth term. Mr. Enzi was succeeded in the Senate in 2021 by Republican Cynthia Lummis, a former congresswoman and state treasurer.

Mr. Enzi’s political career began at 30 when he was elected mayor of Gillette, a city at the heart of Wyoming’s then-booming coal mining industry. He was elected to the Wyoming House in 1986 and state Senate in 1991.

The retirement of Republican Sen. Alan Simpson opened the way for Mr. Enzi’s election to the Senate. He beat Mr. Barrasso in a nine-way Republican primary and then Democratic former Wyoming Secretary of State Kathy Karpan in the general election; Mr. Barrasso would be appointed to the Senate in 2007 after the death of Sen. Craig Thomas.

Mr. Enzi wielded quiet influence as the Senate slipped into partisan gridlock over the second half of his career there.

His more recent accomplishments included advancing legislation to enable sales taxes to be collected on internet sales crossing state lines. He played a major role in reforming the No Child Left Behind law that set performance standards for elementary, middle and high school students.

Mr. Enzi fought for Wyoming as the top coal-mining state to receive payments through the federal Abandoned Mine Land program, which taxes coal operations to help reclaim abandoned mining properties.

He sought to encourage business innovation by hosting an annual inventors conference. He also backed bills involving the U.S. Mint, but his proposal to do away with the penny was unsuccessful.

Mr. Enzi was born on Feb. 1, 1944, in Bremerton, Washington. His family moved to Thermopolis soon after.

Mr. Enzi graduated from Sheridan High School in 1962 and from George Washington University with a degree in accounting in 1966. He received a master’s in retail marketing from the University of Denver in 1968.

He married Diana Buckley in 1969 and the couple moved to Gillette where they started a shoe store, NZ Shoes. They later opened two more NZ Shoes stores, in Sheridan and Miles City, Montana.

From 1985 to 1997, Mr. Enzi worked for Dunbar Well Service in Gillette, where he was an accounting manager, computer programmer and safety trainer.

Mr. Enzi served two, four-year terms as mayor of Gillette. He served on the U.S. Department of Interior Coal Advisory Committee from 1976 to 1979.

His family expressed appreciation for the prayers and support they’ve received but asked for privacy, former spokesman Max D’Onofrio said. The family is planning “a celebration of a life well-lived,” he said in a statement and plans to share details later.

Mr. Enzi is survived by his wife; two daughters, Amy and Emily; a son, Brad; and several grandchildren.

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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