|41st Governor of Kansas|
January 12, 1987 – January 14, 1991
|Lieutenant||Jack D. Walker|
|Preceded by||John W. Carlin|
|Succeeded by||Joan Finney|
|Born||March 16, 1944|
Colby, Kansas, U.S.
|Education||Kansas State University (BS)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
Army Commendation Medal
John Michael Hayden (born March 16, 1944) is a retired American politician and veteran who served as the 41st Governor of Kansas. He subsequently served as the Secretary of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department under governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.
Michael Hayden, also known as Mike Hayden, was born in Colby, Kansas, on March 16, 1944. He grew up in the small western Kansas town of Atwood, in Rawlins county. He was raised by his father Irven Wesley Hayden, and mother Ruth Kelley Hayden. Before the marriage, Ruth was a Democrat but she switched to Republicanism upon marriage to Irven Hayden. The Hayden family also comes from a long line of Republicans. Michael Hayden also registered as a Republican. The Hayden family was also brimming with many veterans, such as Hayden's grandfather, who fought at Verdun in France in World War I, and Irven Hayden, who found Burma Road in World War II. The Hayden family worked the same farmland that had been in the family for over forty years. Hayden recalls that growing up in a small town in a rural community was very helpful throughout his years in the legislature and as governor, because he felt a great closeness to Kansas, and its communities.
Hayden realized early in his life that he was not meant for the same life of farming that the rest of his lineage took up. Hayden had a greater interest in the natural world that surrounded him, and the life that it contained. His interest was not in cultivating, but understanding the natural world associated with the land. These interests compelled Hayden to pursue a degree in wildlife and later biology at Kansas State University. Hayden attended Kansas State University from 1962 to his graduation in 1966.
Hayden had received a deferment to attend college, but that ended swiftly upon graduation. He went into Vietnam in April 1969 as a second lieutenant in the infantry of the U.S. Army and spent a little over a year in service until he arrived home in May 1970. After Hayden's toured Vietnam, he received a call from (former Kansas Governor) Alf Landon, who said "I want to endorse you for governor... You've been there under fire.".
After Hayden's deployment ended, he returned to Fort Hays State University for graduate school. In 1972, Hayden made his first decision to join the race as an elected official for his home district in Northwestern Kansas while still attending Fort Hays, 120 miles away. Hayden claimed that had never dreamed of being in an elected office. It was his passion for wildlife, the environment, and conservation that encouraged him to decide to run for office. Hayden ran during his last semester in graduate school, a period where he was teaching a biology lab in the year 1972.
The incumbent, Milton Nitsch, focused a lot of his energy on the business world. It was when Nitsch voted down each bill that focused on improving the environment that Hayden turned to his wife and exclaimed "I think I'll run [for legislature]". On learning of his intent, opponent Nitsch was bemused and impartial towards the prospect of a "young kid" competing against him for his incumbent position. Hayden was twenty-eight years old upon his entrance to the Legislative race, and to that point, there had not been a successful campaign that got a person under the age of fifty elected. Hayden claimed that the primary was hard-fought, but in the end, Hayden won by a mere 250 votes. Hayden credits a large portion of his success to the results of the previous election in 1970. During that election, incumbent Nitsch barely scraped by. Another factor that Hayden acknowledged was that the family roots stretched deeply in the realm of politics as far as 1924 with his grandfather as mayor.
Hayden's experience in the legislature was focused on eventually becoming the Speaker of the House. During his journey to becoming a speaker, he reluctantly accepted a position on the Ways and Means Committee. Hayden had wanted to be a part of the Natural Resources Committee but knew that it was beneficial to have a deeper understanding of how government worked.
Several history-making events occurred during this period. The Watergate Scandal occurred, which caused the only Democratic turnover in the state's history, and kept Hayden on the Ways and Means Committee. Due to this, Hayden was a high-ranking member of the Republican party. Secondly, Hayden became friends with a handful of crucial people: Wendell Lady, who soon became speaker, and Bill Bunten, who accepted the vice-chairman position of the Ways and Means Committee instead of the chairman position, so that Hayden could have the chairmanship. After four years of chairing the Ways and Means committee, Michael Hayden was the "one person left standing" for the position of speaker.
The idea of running for governor was a distant and farfetched thought early on in Hayden's career as a speaker. During his second term as speaker, Governor Carlin's term was coming to an end and the potential nominee was not up to par. Hayden served on the Legislature for the years 1972–1986.
The Republican Party contained seven potential candidates. Hayden approached the primaries with, in his words, a "very simple strategy". The plan he devised was to win the hearts of the ninety counties that contained less than ten thousand citizens. The primary results concluded that Hayden had won eighty-nine of those counties. In the documentary The Kansas Governor, journalist Lew Ferguson claimed that "People will vote for candidate A or B more than based on political party or issues. They vote on the person they are most comfortable with, like the best, and that projects a personality that is pleasing to them". While the other candidates were competing for the urban votes, Hayden's team focused on "solidifying the rural votes".
In the general election, Hayden ran against personal friend Lieutenant Governor Thomas Docking. Docking had had no opposition when it came to the primaries. He spent no money on advertisements, made no effort to make a lot of appearances, and attempted to save his resources. Hayden won the election.
On election, Hayden recalls in The Kansas Governor, "It's an overwhelming feeling … a humbling feeling. You've got to be yourself, that's your best tools. There is no one way, everyone brings their own personality and I brought a no-nonsense one". Hayden focused on three issues during his first term as governor: The Highway Plan, Property Tax Appraisal, and his Tell the Governor sessions.
Kansas has the third-largest highway system in the US. Hayden attempted to rejuvenate the highways in 1987 by calling a special legislative session, but the idea was not supported. It was not until 1989 that Hayden was able to pass an eight billion dollar plan for the highways. The Wichita Eagle stated that "the highway plan has changed people's lives forever in southeastern Kansas."
The second major theme of Hayden's gubernatorial career was to reappraise properties in order to adjust property taxes. Hayden proposed a question as to whether or not the people of his constituency wanted to move from the uniform system to a new system of classification. The people voted yes. He put a system in place that worked annually with one third of the property population so that there would be a turnover in property taxes every three years. The reappraisal raised taxes on some of the citizens, and lowered the taxes on others. It helped the farmers and homeowners, but commercial property owners and real estate agents were enraged at how the property tax appraisal turned out. The issue heavily split the Republican party. Hayden stated "I knew it was the right thing to do, but I also knew that politically it was probably the kiss of death, and ultimately proved to be so far as the election goes."
The third issue that Michael Hayden dealt with over the years was his ability to manage the matters of the state, and the matters of the people within the state. He started a program called "Tell the Governor". Claiming that it was important to break down the barriers, Hayden went all over Kansas, telling everyone that they had five minutes with the governor. On recounting his experience with Tell the Governor, Hayden says "What I remember most about it was, first, it keeps you in touch. It keeps you in touch with reality." Hayden stated that the demand for appearances was overwhelming, and he continuously over scheduled.
At the end of Hayden's term, he began to seek reelection. "I knew that reelection prospects were going to be difficult," Hayden said. The main opponent from the Republican primary was Nestor Weigand. Weigand was one of the realtors and a part of the anti-tax movement. In the end, Hayden beat Weigand and went on to compete against Democratic challenger Joan Finney. Finney was the pro-life state treasurer and took over the polls so much that Hayden could not catch up. Finney beat Hayden in the general election and took over the position of governor.