Sen. Matt Hansen is the Legislature’s youngest senator, having graduated from Lincoln Southwest High School in 2006. He continued on to the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science. Later as a law student there, he specialized in alternative dispute resolution—not knowing how quickly the skill would serve him as a state senator.
“If you had asked me even five years ago, I don’t know if I would have predicted this office,” he said.
Getting involved in his northeast Lincoln neighborhood of University Place, he saw how issues affected the people in his community. This inspired him to run for office.
After his election, he learned that his status as the youngest senator in the body by tradition deems him chairperson of the Legislature’s smallest committee—the Enrollment and Review Committee.
A committee of one, legislative rules indicate that the E&R chairperson is to: report bills which have been engrossed, correct the spelling of words and the erroneous division and hyphenation of words, capitalize or decapitalize words, convert masculine or feminine referents to neutral gender when appropriate and change numbers from words to figures or from figures to words in legislation.
Good thing Hansen likes details. As his tenure continues, he looks forward to applying his mediation experience to good use with his legislative colleagues.
“I’ve always been interested in problem solving,” he said. “I’m a details guy. I like getting down to the nitty gritty of an issue.”
Before his new role as a senator, that attention to detail drew Hansen to the theater. He takes special pleasure in working backstage for Lincoln Community Playhouse productions. He operated the light board for their 2013 run of “Little Women” and again for “Miss Nelson is Missing” this spring.
But don’t expect to see this soft-spoken senator commanding center stage any time soon. He much prefers to work behind-the-scenes.
“I resent people who think the technical side of theater is for actors who didn’t get cast,” he said with a grin.
Like all new senators, Hansen is tasked with learning about a number of diverse issues in a very short time period. Luckily, he’s been able to lean on his colleagues.
“It’s a strange experience to go from candidate to full-blown senator overnight,” he said. “I really appreciated the orientation process and having the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as possible from current and former senators.”