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Haas to end his tenure as legislator

DICKINSON - Rep. C.B. "Buck" Haas says he views life as a series of chapters. And with the array of hats he's worn, his story would make for a long read: Farm kid, teacher, school district administrator, owner of two small businesses, North Dakota legislator, husband, father, grandfather, and now with his 10 years as a representative ending in November, he's adding world traveler to the list.

"I am 70-years-old, and my wife and I are both in good health, and there are number of things we want to do with regard to travel...that you need to do while you're still healthy," he said.

He and his wife, Bev, have already been to more than half a dozen foreign countries, and they hope to visit Russia, China and the Middle East, Haas said.

Other factors in his decision to retire from the statehouse are his desire to see his family more often and his belief in self-imposed term limits.

"I think it's always good to get fresh...blood into any organization and fresh ideas and fresh thinking and new perspectives on things," he said.

Before becoming a legislator, Haas taught vocational agriculture for 10 years and then became an administrator in the Dickinson School District, devoting a total of 33 years to the field of education.

Haas and his wife owned a fabric store and sewing machine dealership in Dickinson for more than 20 years. They bought the Taylor Nursery in 1979 and ran it for 24 years before turning over the management of it to another couple. Haas and his wife still live in Taylor at the nursery.

Haas, a Republican, first ran to represent District 36 - which is made up of rural Stark County and parts of Dunn, Morton and Hettinger counties - in the fall of 1998 and was elected to a two-year term. He was re-elected in 2000 and 2004 to subsequent four-year terms.

As chairman of the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee during the 2005 and 2007 sessions, he dealt with veterans' health issues and retirement plans. He highlighted the committee's work on the veterans' home in Lisbon.

"There was some real financial problems there and some organizational problems that we got pretty well solved. And the place is on sound financial footing now, based on some decisions that the Legislature made in the last two sessions," he said.

Haas, who also sat on the Education Committee, said the bulk of his time in the Legislature was spent addressing the issue of equity in K-12 education.

"The thesis about equity is that the education of a child should not be contingent upon the value of the land where they live," he said.

In the 2005 and 2007 sessions, Haas and his colleagues sponsored legislation that would have reined in property taxes, a chunk of which funds K-12 education, and boosted the state's contribution to school costs. That legislation was not passed into law, he said, but the idea lives on in a recent proposal from Gov. John Hoeven.

"And now the governor has come out with his plan which is, from a conceptual standpoint, it's a virtual replica of the plan that we had...not from the mechanics in how it's going to be implemented but from a conceptual standpoint of what we wanted to accomplish," Haas said.

Sen. Herb Urlacher, a Republican from District 36, is Haas' neighbor in Taylor. Urlacher, who has known Haas since 1961, praised his character and his work ethic on Thursday. He said Haas will be remembered for his labors on education issues.

"He's very well informed. His background in education is hard to match," Urlacher said.

Looking back on his legislative career, Haas said the experience has been a positive one.

"I wouldn't have traded these 10 years for anything. It's been a wonderful experience."