Heard on the Hill

Take 5: Sen. Dean Heller

How sweeping floors triggered a lasting love of sports

Sen. Dean Heller in front of the many keepsakes displayed in his Hart Building office (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to legislative work.  

This week, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., talks about automotive racing, playing and watching sports and packing horses in the Sierra Mountains.  

Q : Tell me about your love of automotive racing.  

A : As you can tell, my father raced. He owned an automotive business so when I was probably 12 years of age and older, he made me work in his shop. And I said "made me work," I had three brothers and two sisters, so all the boys had to work in the shop. From junior high through high school, if you weren’t in school or playing a sport, you had to be working in the shop. Because of that, I played every sport known to man so I didn’t have to spend all my time in that shop, sweeping the floors. [My father] raced in Northern California and Northern Nevada, he was president of the auto racing organization … and had the number one car out on the track for several years in a row.  

Q : How often do you race now?  

A : For a couple decades, I raced every Saturday night from March through September and sometimes into October. I’ve had to change since I’ve come to Congress. I went from circle track racing to road course racing, reason being is that road course racing is a little bit more casual. Circle track racing is every Saturday night and I can’t race every Saturday night now. I road course race maybe four or five times a year — I’m racing this weekend in California. I’ll drive to California and race outside the Bay Area.  

Q : You played basketball in high school and continued as an adult, did you ever have dreams of the NBA?  

A : Never thought that I would do that. My senior year in high school I had a compound fracture in my femur playing football so that kind of took all my sights of glory and bigger and better things away from me. But, my intention wasn’t to play ball in college anyway — I played through junior high and high school then played until I came to Congress. Everything kind of ended when I came to Congress — my basketball, my racing and everything else — because you spend so much time at home.  

[Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei and I] played high school ball together, he took my legislative seat and then he took my congressional seat. So Amodei and I have spent a lot of time together. But we all played ball together for years.  

Q : When you’re home and find free time, what’s your favorite other Nevada activity?  

A : My wife and I do a lot of [horse] packing. So we take our horses and we go up into the Sierras, spend a lot of time in Nevada on trails. But every August, we take a couple of trips together, sometimes with friends and sometimes just the two of us, and we pack our horses up. We will go out for four or five days and spend time away from society, I guess, civilization for a while. That’s probably my most favorite thing to do with her is go on pack trips. We just put one [pack horse] down. So we both rode a horse and had one pack horse — so four horses total, one pack horse per person for tents and food, sleeping bags, everything else.  

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