by Sandra Lee Buxton
Politics. The word itself can evoke a visceral response and at times, well let’s call it a spirited discussion. Now if you want to talk politics then join friends for dinner, if you want to learn about politics then talk to Gina Hahn. She is not only a local legend but is known and well respected on the State and National level. Her interest in the political process became apparent as a young girl while watching her father’s involvement in local government. She began her “political career” as a school girl assisting her father with small tasks, learned quickly, developed her own style, and found her niche. Her heavy duty involvement began during the Barry Goldwater campaign for President in 1964 as she volunteered for the Republican party and served as an active supporter during his candidacy. Gina stayed busy with local politics and as a young mother of five balanced her home responsibilities and community service while running successful businesses with her now deceased husband Richard.
Gina moved to Naples full time in 1978 and jumped head first into the political white waters. A few of her accomplishments will be shared but frankly the list is too extensive to name them all. She has served as Editor of the Newsletter “Trunkline”, been President of the Woman’s Republican Club of Naples Federated, Collier County State Committeewoman, Republican National Convention Delegate, and served on Presidential Campaigns for Goldwater, Reagan, Bush, and Giuliani, and named Volunteer of the Year. Gina has attended local celebrations for elected officials, Governor and Presidential Ball(s), with an “S” since there have been many. Respected for her professionalism, her commitment, knowledge and rock solid problem solving, her skills have been sought after by those that most of us only read about or see on TV.
So how did this petite soft spoken Lady (white gloves and all) become who she is. Gina credits her parents who were excellent role models providing a foundation on how to live life, and she mirrored their work ethic. This Jersey girl, moved with her parents to her father’s native Italy where she lived between the ages of 2-10.
Having an Italian father and a Swiss mother provided life experiences and an expanded world view during formative years. Living in the Italian countryside, with a culture where everyone is family, developed her character as a positive person who sees the best in others. She and her family left Italy to return stateside just before War was declared in Europe. Since her father had not yet become an American citizen the family was placed in an internment camp until they were processed and then allowed to return to New Jersey. Her parents busied themselves rebuilding their lives and providing for the family.
God, Country and Family, their values were simple, oh yes and hard work. Gina spoke only Italian when she returned to New Jersey and her mother insisted she learn English as quickly as possible and become “Americanized”.
Later in life when Gina became interested in marriage, she knew that she wanted to find a man just like her father. Honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage, with a priority on ethics, God, Country and Family. She found that person in Richard and they worked as a team during their entire married life. This last year Gina became involved with and made a sizable donation to the Freedom Memorial here in Naples. When I asked what that meant to her, she stated that this was something that her husband would have valued and it was certainly a worthy cause. Honoring Veterans is important to her.
I also asked what advice she has for today’s youth as they navigate challenges. Number one is to volunteer, be a contributor to the community, follow their passion. Educate themselves on current events, watch political debates, choose elected officials wisely, not by gender or by looks. I also asked her opinion on the difference between the Presidential races of the past and currently. She was quick with a response: we have lost the air of formality and decorum. In the past, facts were the focus of debates, not personal attacks or dragging family members into the political fire. While most of us consider ourselves patriotic, we get involved, we vote, wave flags at parades and care about our country, Gina Hahn is all of that and more, she cares about others and walks her talk. She is our First Lady of Politics and Graciousness here in Collier County.