Celebrating Irene Hansen during Women’s History Month

by Kate Belcher

“Men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often, the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. but the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”

That’s part of President Jimmy Carter’s message designating the first week of March as National Women’s History Week in 1980. In 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as Women’s History Month.”

Irene Hansen has represented Duchesne County for years, as the executive director of the Duchesne County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Office for more 20 years. Her love of the entrepreneurial spirit has guided her tireless work in projects that bring new business opportunities and investment in the Uintah Basin.

Irene currently serves as Duchesne County commissioner. She is only the second woman commissioner in the county’s 100-year history. She announced last month that she will be retiring at the end of her term.

In addition to her job as a commissioner, she also serves on the Board at UBMC.

Irene Hansen has been recognized with many national and state awards, including Utah Energy Pioneer, Utah Rural Woman of the Year, SBA Minority Business Advocate of the Year,World Trade Center Global Business Advocate of the Year, and many more.

“Irene has worked on legislative issues and has served on many boards and commissions for various Utah governors,” according to UBTech. “She loves the people of Utah and realizes the impact the energy-producing counties have on the well-being of the state. She is a tireless champion of responsible energy production. Irene loves to tell the story of Northeastern Utah – highlighting the determination, work ethic and great leadership she is proud to be a part of.

“Irene is known to be Uintah Basin’s largest cheerleader, and has championed the expansion of UBTech and its programs over the last 30 years.”

Lezlee Whiting has worked with Irene on many projects over the years.

“I have known Irene for decades – the word I would use to describe her would be ‘undaunted,’” Whiting said. “It doesn’t matter what she is facing, she doesn’t hesitate to tackle it head-on and with a smile. She is consistently positive, and she has been a staunch supporter of our community, our county and the entire Uintah Basin through so many ups and downs and booms and busts. She loves it here and her enthusiasm rubs off on everyone she interacts with.”

Duchesne County director of community development Mike Hyde sees the results of Hansen’s work up close.

“Irene is known by many as ‘Duchesne County’s cheerleader,’” he said. “She brags about the quality of life in the county whenever she gets a chance and is always optimistic about our future. She has worked tirelessly over the years to attract new businesses and support existing businesses and has been a key player in many community events such as UBIC, Festival of Trees and Holly Fair. Now, as county commissioner, she continues to watch out for the best interests of the county as she interacts with the legislature, the Utah Association of Counties, city officials, state agencies and federal agencies.”

Kathy Hadlock of the Duchesne County Chamber of Commerce is another of Hansen’s fans.

“Irene Hansen has dedicated the last 25 plus years to Duchesne County,” Hadlock said. “She has been involved in helping people with their private businesses as well as bringing retail and service oriented businesses into our area. Irene works tirelessly for the improvement of rural living here and elsewhere. A strong moral compass, and love of the people who live here, seem to give her superhuman strength. Everyone knows that you can call her day or night for advice and support or a friendly conversation. Our community has a strong ally in Irene Hansen.”

Local business owner Thomas Winterton benefited from Hansen’s passion while he was getting things going.

“There are few people in the Uintah Basin who have made as great of an impact than Irene Hansen,” Winterton said. “Years ago, when we were young entrepreneurs, Irene worked tirelessly with my wife and I to help us be successful in our local business endeavors. Now, years later, I have witnessed Irene work non-stop to help business owners and citizens alike with the goal of making the Uintah Basin the best place to work and raise a family. She is Duchesne County’s best cheerleader, and the Basin will forever be a better place because of her efforts.”

Irene announced she will be retiring after her current county commissioner term ends in 2025.

“I love our county and all of northeastern Utah,” Hansen said. “I plan to stay very busy, of course, with family, but then continue to be a blessing whenever possible to our residents. I enjoy service and attending community events, and plan on enjoying all of those for many years to come. Maybe a little bit of travel, but when you live in the best place in the world, you don’t need to go far.”

She remains an advocate for the best the Uintah Basin has to offer.

“I want to continue to build on the good work of great leaders over many years and continue to help our local economies continue to come out of the Covid crisis,” Hansen said. “I hope our industries in the Basin, including energy and agriculture, continue to thrive. I want to be a resounding supporter and help to our great elected officials and hopefully find some unique ways to diversify our economy. I want to continue my work to tell the story of our region and the great people, places and partnerships that have helped us be successful – Uintah Basin Healthcare, Moon Lake Electric, Strata Networks, UBTech, Duchesne County School District, USU, Northeastern Counseling, Uintah Basin Association of Government and many others which has allowed us to be the envy of rural America.”

In the meantime, she still has work to do during this term of service.

“I have loved working with all of the Duchesne County commissioners throughout my career and I especially enjoy those that I have been able to work with side by side during my term,” she said.

A common description of Irene is “cheerleader.” Oxford defines it as “an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of someone or something.” Sounds spot on.