John Boehner, the new speaker of the U.S. House and the most powerful Republican in the country, spent 1984 to 1990 in Columbus as a state rep.

It wasn't exactly the start of his political career-he was a Union Township trustee in Butler County-but it was his first significant elected office.

"He was outspoken and aggressive," says current Ohio House member Louis Blessing Jr., a Republican from the Cincinnati suburb of Colerain Township who was first elected to the House in 1982.

He'd get together socially with other Republicans and "run ideas by us," Blessing says. "He wasn't shy at all. He wanted to build a consensus among our caucus members. At the time, we were in the deep minority and Vern Riffe was majority leader."

One of the first resolutions that Boehner introduced as a newly elected state legislator was House Joint Resolution 6, which called on Congress to balance the federal budget. He also sponsored bills to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia and close loopholes in Ohio law that allowed no-bid state contracts.

Even Democrats have kind words for him. "John was a tough debater," Jerry Leubbers, a Delhi Township Democrat who served with Boehner in the Ohio General Assembly, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Sometimes people ask me if I know him. I'll say to people, 'Yes, I'm very proud to say that I know John Boehner.' "

From Columbus to Capitol Hill (he won election in November to his 10th term in the U.S. House), Boehner's always been known as a guy who likes to play golf and is more comfortable sharing a cigarette or glass of fine wine at a local pub-his father and grandfather were bartenders.

And, of course, he's famous for his orange-hued tan that has sparked jokes by President Obama and Jon Stewart. (Unconfirmed rumors say he has a tanning bed in the U.S. Capitol and watches the Golf Channel between floor votes.)

As Bob Hagan, the longtime Democrat state rep from Youngstown, recently told the New York Times: "He's been conservative, he's been consistent and he's been tan."