According to Mr Enzi, Mr Simpson encouraged him to run for mayor of Gillette, the city to which he had only moved a few years earlier.
“On the way home from that Cody meeting, while my wife was driving, I told her what Senator Simpson had said and that I was wondering if I should run for mayor,” Enzi said in his retirement address. “It must have been quite a shock because she eventually drove into the ditch and then came back out onto the street.”
At that time, Mr Enzi said, Gillette was a place where the recent discoveries of oil, gas and coal drew more and more people – and weighed on community services. The city, he said, needed three things that would become a recurring theme in Mr. Enzi’s political career: budgets, agendas, and planning.
“Not the most exciting topics,” he said in his retirement speech.
Mr. Enzi was elected mayor in 1974 and served two four-year terms, during which time he also traveled to and from Washington as a member of the Coal Advisory Committee of the US Department of Interior and served as president of the Wyoming Association of Communities.
He soon turned his attention to state policy, joining the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1987 and the Wyoming State Senate in 1991. He was first elected to the United States Senate in 1996. He headed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2005 to 2007 and was Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee from 2015 to 2021.
In 2009, Mr. Enzi was a member of what is known as the Gang of Six, a group of Senate Finance Committee members – three Democrats and three Republicans – who engaged in lengthy negotiations over a health care overhaul. Talks dragged on and Republicans eventually withdrew from these compromise efforts amid voter protests. The Affordable Care Act would pass in 2010 without Republican support in Congress. Mr Enzi had tried to repeal the law.
In 2017, Mr Enzi was one of 22 senators to sign a letter urging President Donald J. Trump to step down from the Paris Climate Agreement.