Haukoos at home at the House door

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 1999

Bob Haukoos said it’s like returning home.

Wednesday, April 07, 1999

Bob Haukoos said it’s like returning home. When he took his new post as Minnesota House of Representatives doorman, the former legislator said more was the same than had changed in the past five years.

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He estimates two-thirds of the faces he sees during a day were around when he left the House in 1994.

Additionally, he said some of the would-be legislation is has also been hanging around for that long.

&uot;Some of (the bills) are still coming back year after year and I don’t think they’ll go anywhere this year,&uot; he said.

His unique insight into all things legislative gives him a unique perspective on his part-time job, he said.

&uot;It’s a little easier for me because I know all the reps,&uot; he said, noting he also knows the former legislators and press people granted access to the House floor during session.

But, beyond knowing the faces of representatives, Haukoos also knows how most of them think.

Last week, he sat outside the House door and listened during a special joint session. Seconds before legislators cast their votes, he quietly announced what they would be.

As the legislators seemingly mimicked Haukoos’ voice, the Albert Lea man said experience has shown him which side of a vote legislators will usually fall.

&uot;With some of them you know they will vote red on tax changes,&uot; he used as an example of predicting a lawmaker’s vote. A &uot;red&uot; vote is a &uot;no&uot; vote.

But, Haukoos also admits to occasionally being surprised, especially on a recent House vote to scrap the Profiles of Learning.

&uot;There were some people talking in favor of that, but then they voted to throw it out,&uot; he recalled.

While it’s fun to keep track of the bills and voting, Haukoos said the main challenge of the job is keeping track of who gets to go in the House chamber and who doesn’t.

While part of the job was easy for the former lawmaker, he admits keeping track of the new faces took some time. But now he said he can recognize both face and voice of most House members.

Standing outside a formidable closed door, Haukoos said he identifies who’s speaking by their voice. In his first week on the job, however, that was a challenge with the newer voices.

&uot;Once in awhile I’ll sneak over to the TV and watch them if I don’t know who’s talking,&uot; he said of the televisions posted outside the House floor for viewing of what’s happening behind the closed door.

With 21 new House members this year and several others in recent years, Haukoos said he can now easily identify almost anyone who gets to go through his door.

While keeping track of familiar faces is a large part of his job, Haukoos said it’s the new faces that can provide the most enjoyment.

He said he enjoys seeing the reactions of visitors to the Capitol.

&uot;They’re just amazed at how beautiful the Capitol is,&uot; he said of first-time visitors.

In the weeks that he’s stood at the House door, Haukoos said he’s seen a variety of tourists, especially from foreign countries like Japan, Germany and Spain.

&uot;It’s fun to visit with them,&uot; he said.

Overall, he said all the aspects of the job are enjoyable.

&uot;These are really good people,&uot; he said of the legislators. &uot;Most of them are trying to do the job their constituents want them to do.&uot;

Noting he has friends on both sides of the aisle, he admits that might have helped his chances for getting the job.

&uot;It didn’t hurt any,&uot; he said.

During part of his eight terms in office, Haukoos was a roommate of the current speaker of the House, Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon. Still, he notes that 11 others were also interview for the job so he never considered himself the obvious choice.

&uot;I didn’t know anything (about getting the job) until right before session started,&uot; he said.

Now that he has taken the position, the former District 27A representative predicts he may have started something. He said he believes he’s the first lawmaker to return to the House as doorman, but he doubts if he’ll be the last.

&uot;I broke the barrier now,&uot; he said.

The attraction, he admits, is being part of the political process without the pressure of voting or debating. He has his own opinions, but is required to keep them to himself – no lobbying is allowed.

At the same time, he gets to see the friends he’s made over the years.

&uot;You miss the legislators,&uot; he said of retirement in Albert Lea.

While lawmakers may debate in committee and on the floor, he noted they are also friends after the state’s work is done.

&uot;It’s kind of like a family affair,&uot; he said.