Former Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, died July 26 after sustaining serious injuries from a bicycle accident near his home in Gillette, Wyo. Enzi, 77 at the time of his death, served four terms in the U.S. Senate until his retirement in December 2020, and his foray into politics ignited his appreciation for HR. His family will commemorate his life in a public ceremony on Aug. 6 in Gillette. Former Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
In 1986, Enzi joined the American Society for Personnel Administration, which was later renamed the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
“I got interested in HR issues after I was elected mayor of Gillette,” he told HR Magazine in 1996. He and his wife, Diana, had moved there to expand NZ Shoes, his father’s shoe sales business.
In 1974, he entered Gillette’s mayoral election, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. He became the youngest mayor in the city’s history and served for eight years.
“I went from running a shoe store with just two of us working there to managing a city government that had a workforce of more than 120 people. I quickly learned about the importance of good HR practices,” Enzi told HR Magazine, noting that he made the reform and update of the city’s HR function a top priority.
“I was managing most of the city’s HR function–even down to recruiting the garbage collectors,” he recalled.
Enzi was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives, serving from 1987 to 1991. He then won a seat as a member of the state Senate while working full-time as an HR and accounting manager for Dunbar Well Service in Gillette. In the Senate, he helped pass a reference-checking bill that he said was based on model reference-checking legislation SHRM had drafted.
In 1996 he won the first of four U.S. Senate terms and drafted more than 100 bills signed into law during the terms of four different presidents, according to the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune.
SHRM partnered with Enzi when he chaired the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to help craft workplace policy proposals, including the Employee Free Choice Act, Family and Medical Leave Act reform, and compensation time. He also met personally with a number of SHRM advocates from Wyoming.
News of the senator’s death prompted notes of condolence from HR professionals.
Heather Doke, SHRM-CP, fondly recalled the senator from her work as past president and legislative chair for the Wyoming State Council and SHRM Advocacy Team member.
“He was truly a remarkable man and a supporter of the human resources field and the workforce,” she said. “He understood and was always willing to take time out of his busy schedule to listen and offer practical solutions to the issues facing our profession,” Doke said.
“He was always ready with a story that would bring a smile to my face, even with the difficult issues we discussed,” she added. “He will be greatly missed!”
John Aguirre, past legislative director for SHRM’s Wyoming State Council, remembers Enzi as “very active and supportive of our Wyoming SHRM Council, state chapters, and state HR managers” and “very supportive of many of the human resource-related legislative actions in our state. His candor and willingness to state his position on a particular legislative action was always appreciated.”
Aguirre added that he always looked forward to seeing the senator on Capitol Hill Advocacy Day during the annual SHRM Volunteer Leaders’ Business Meeting.
“He always made time for our SHRM representatives to discuss various topics,” Aguirre said. “Not only that, he would take the time to discuss other non-HR issues. You never felt like you were being rushed or that he was too busy for us.”
Enzi’s genuineness touched Cyndi Magee, SHRM-CP, SHRM Wyoming State Council director.
“He listened, asked real questions, and engaged in thoughtful conversation,” she said. “He also gave valuable input and shared his honest opinion, even if he did not agree on the topic. There were no smoke and mirrors with Sen. Enzi; he was authentic, engaging, and a true inspiration. What a tremendous loss for HR, Wyoming, and our nation.”
Judi Just, SHRM-CP, membership director for the SHRM Wyoming State Council, remembers a Capitol Hill Advocacy Day visit with Enzi and seeing the conference room of his office that contained copies of all the bills—and the signing pens—of the legislation he wrote.
“We will miss this quiet leader,” she said.
The Wyoming SHRM State Council and Wyoming HR community offered their condolences and noted their appreciation for Enzi’s “knowledge, leadership, and advocacy for the HR profession” that included key changes to that field of work.
Enzi was biking in Gillette when he crashed around 8:30 p.m. He was wearing a helmet but broke his neck and ribs in the accident, according to the Gillette News-Record. He was flown to UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colo., but never regained consciousness, according to a posting on his Facebook page.
His family will have a public ceremony at 1 p.m. at the Gillette College Pronghorn Center to commemorate his life. Pastor Donavon Voigt of First Baptist Church will officiate. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Project Mercy, an organization combating poverty in Ethiopia; the Mike and Diana Enzi Scholarship Fund at the University of Wyoming; or the Wyoming Community Foundation Mike & Diana Enzi Charitable Fund.