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Accountant by day, Wildman Wayne by night

Equal parts number-cruncher, thrill-seeker: Meet Utah’s new Senate President Niederhauser.



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"Looking at Larry, Wayne’s father, and looking at Wayne, you can see a lot of the common denominators," says McCandless.

Niederhauser served an LDS mission in Tallahasse, Fla., and attended Utah State University in Logan, where he met his wife. She says he was handsome, kind and knew where he wanted to go in life.

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They married and moved to the Salt Lake Valley, where the Niederhausers first met McCandless, who sold them their first home just before their first daughter was born.

Niederhauser was working for an accounting firm that was hit hard by the mid-1980s recession and was about to lose his job due to cutbacks. But his boss at the time, impressed with his work ethic, called a friend, Al Mansell, and told him "I’ve got a star in there and you ought to hire him."

Niederhauser worked his way up to become the controller and treasurer of Mansell’s business before he and McCandless — who by that time were friends and partners in their outdoor adventures — set out to start their own real-estate development business at the end of the recession.

They have put together a handful of housing developments in the south end of the valley and built several commercial office buildings together and with Mansell.

Politics » In spring 2006, Mansell, who was Utah Senate president at the time, visited Niederhauser and told him he planned to retire from the Legislature and prodded Niederhauser to take his spot.

"I had to talk him into it. I wanted him to run because he’s the kind of guy we need up here," Mansell says. "He is as principled a person as I know. He will do the right thing for the right reason every time and if he thinks he’s doing the wrong thing, he won’t do it."

Niederhauser had served as a county delegate and worked on a couple of local campaigns.


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He had been teaching accounting at Westminster College and loved it, his wife says, and had expressed interest in teaching full-time. So the prospect of running for the Senate came as a surprise.

"She thought I was crazy," Niederhauser says in his first address as president. "I have since proved her right."

In summer 2006, Niederhauser was appointed to fill Mansell’s seat when he retired.

That November, he spent more than $250,000 campaigning for the seat — $139,000 of his own money — a huge amount in his bid to woo fewer than 23,000 voters, and beat Democratic state Rep. Trisha Beck by nearly 1,100 votes.

As a senator, Niederhauser is best known for sponsoring legislation creating a state transparency website, which allows people to search for government expenditures, and new performance notes aimed at measuring the effectiveness of new state programs.

Both measures were supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative, business-backed group of lawmakers. Niederhauser is the state chairman for the group and sits on its executive board.

At the group’s convention last summer, he presented a resolution — embraced by Reynolds Tobacco Co. — recommending a lower tax rate for smokeless tobacco than for cigarettes and hosted a discussion on research, sponsored by the tobacco company, focused on the relative safety of smokeless tobacco.

"Our concern with his bills was always, because of his involvement with ALEC, whether they’re proposed from a need in Utah and a constituent request or as part of a corporate agenda," says Mary Ann Martindale, executive director of the progressive group Alliance For A Better Utah.

Green streak » Niederhauser is a strident defender of free markets and federalism and favors limited government. But his time spent outdoors has also given him an appreciation of the environment, a green streak that isn’t necessarily common among his Republican colleagues.

"I ride my bicycle on Wasatch Boulevard a lot and even in the summer you can sense it, or we’ll climb Grandeur Peak during the winter and its like a cloud sitting in the valley," Niederhauser says. "So you see first-hand the environment and I’m a little closer to the environment because of it."

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