Governor Forrest Anderson’s Leadership & Political Acumen -- Alec Hansen “In the Crucible of Change”

Alec Hansen
Evan Barrett, Montana Tech of the University of Montana

This interview/discussion is a segment of the series “In the Crucible of Change” - Montana’s Dramatic Period of Progressive Change [1965-1980] - From a Corporate Colony to a Citizens’ State and the Challenge of Keeping It That Way - An Evan Barrett Telefilm Series; Produced by: Highlands College/Montana Tech & Orphan Girl Productions (Evan Barrett); Executive Producers: Evan Barrett & John Garic; Host/Moderator: Evan Barrett; Produced in the studios of Helena Civic Television (HCTV) – Production unit: Kirsten Faubion, Stephen Maly, Dave Clarke, Kelsea Kimerly, Lauren Fredrickson, Jeanie McLean-Warden; Opening Voice Recording - Ian Hadley; Photos: Montana Historical Society Photo Archives - Tom Cook; Personal Photo Archives of Evan Barrett; Music: “Living Room Jam” & “Island Breeze” - Richard H. Kuschel - The Recording Center - Missoula, Montana; “Orphan Girl” used by permission of Headframe Spirits – John & Courtney McKee; Partially funded by Grants from Humanities Montana (an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities), Montana History Foundation, and The Greater Montana Foundation (encouraging communication on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans).


Montana Governor Forrest Anderson was perhaps the most experienced and qualified person ever to be elected as Governor of Montana. Having previously served as a county attorney, a member of the legislature, a Supreme Court Justice, and twelve years as Attorney General, Anderson roared to a large victory in 1968 over the Incumbent GOP Governor Tim Babcock. Though the progressive change period in Montana began a few years earlier, Anderson’s 1968 win catapulted progressive policy-making into the mainstream of Montana political and governmental affairs. He used his unique skills and leadership to craftily architect the reorganization of the executive branch which had been kept weak since statehood so that the peoples’ government would not be able to challenge corporations who so dominated Montana. Anderson, whose “Pay More, What For?” campaign slogan strongly separated him from Tim Babcock and the GOP on the sales tax issue, not only beat back the regressive sales tax in the 1968 election, but oversaw its demise at the polls in 1971, shaping politics in Montana for decades to come. Anderson also was a strong proponent of the concept of a new Montana Constitution and contributed strategically to its calling and passage. Anderson served only one term as Governor for health reasons, but made those four years a launch pad for progressive politics and government in Montana.

In this film, Alec Hansen, Special Assistant to Governor Anderson, provides an insider’s perspective as he reflects on the unique way in which Governor Anderson got things done at this critical period “In the Crucible of Change.”

Alec Hansen is best known in Montana political and governmental circles as the long-time chief of the Montana League of Cities and Towns, but he cut his teeth in public service with Governor Forrest Anderson. Alec was born in Butte in 1941, attended local schools graduating from Butte High in 1959. After several years working as a miner and warehouseman for the Anaconda Company in Butte, he attended UM and graduated in History and Political Science in 1966. He joined the U.S. Navy and served with amphibious forces in Vietnam. After discharge from the Navy in 1968, he worked as a news and sports reporter for The Montana Standard in Butte until in September of 1969 he joined Governor Anderson as a Special Assistant focused on press, communications and speech-writing. Alec has noted that drafts were turned into pure Forrest Anderson remarks by the man himself. He learned at the knee of “The Fox” for the rest of Anderson’s term and continued with Governor Tom Judge for two years before returning to Butte to work for the Anaconda Company as the Director of Communications for Montana operations. In 1978, after Anaconda was acquired by the Atlantic Richfield Company, Alec went to work in February for U.S. Senator Paul Hatfield in Washington D.C., leaving after Hatfield’s primary election loss in June 1978. He went back to work for Gov. Judge, remaining until the end of 1980. In 1981 Alec worked as a contract lobbyist and news and sports reporter for the Associated Press in Helena. In 1982, the Montana League of Cities and Towns hired him as Executive Director, a position he held until retirement in 2014. Alec and his wife Colleen, are the parents of two grown children, with one grandson.