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Topic: Governor's Task Force on Water Resources

Joe Harkins and Rex Buchanan, Kansas

Interview of Joe Harkins, April 24, 2019

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
In 2019 Joe Harkins sat down for an oral history interview conducted by Rex Buhcanan. Harkins describes a career that began in public health and ranged from addressing nursing home problems in Kansas to initiating a graduate program in health administration. Persuaded to take on running the Kansas Water Office, Harkins engaged in transforming the culture of water administration at a time when issues related to water had a high priority in the state. In a detailed discussion of water policy, he discussed the dynamics of the relationship between governors and the legislature in developing, adopting, and funding Show Morea state water plan in the 1980s and early 1990s. Harkins brings the perspective of a professional public administrator to the issue of water policy development. He recalls learning about water policy while he was in charge of developing it. Harkins also has the perspective of a key staff member in several administrations in which water policy was a high priority. He reflects on the importance of gubernatorial leadership and the power dynamics among the various interests that shaped the ultimate policy. Harkins laments that water issues are no longer among the highest priorities in state public policy administration. This interview provides the most comprehensive explanations of policy development in practice in Kansas state government that is available. Show Less
Mike Hayden, Kansas

Interview of Mike Hayden, June 13, 2018

Interviewed by H. Edward (Ed) Flentje
This 2019 oral history interview of former Kansas Governor Mike Hayden focuses on his service in the Kansas Legislature and his development as a politician and policy leader. Hayden shares anecdotes about his seven terms in the Kansas House, beginning with his quest to get then-Speaker Pete McGill to appoint him to the Advisory Council on Ecology and his speech on the floor of the House to kill the "mad dog" bill which did away with county welfare departments. The interview includes a discussion comparing the styles of various legislative leaders and what they taught him. Hayden's interest in water Show Morepolicy, conservation, and environmental education extended into his term as Governor. He championed public lands, an issue which he carried into his nine years as Secretary of Wildlife and Parks under three different governors. Hayden discusses the death penalty and many of the issues that were the basis for constitutional amendments under Governor Carlin and which Hayden handled as House Speaker. He also discusses the rising interest in abortion as the start of a more conservative, far-right movement. The interview includes many examples of how leaders with whom Hayden served framed the debate to their advantage. He concludes the interview by discussing the constant need to balance the state's interests with the those of local constituencies. Hayden saw his service in the Legislature as good training to run for Governor. Show Less
Lee Rolfs, Kansas

Interview of Leland (Lee) Rolfs, October 28, 2019

Interviewed by Rex Buchanan
In this oral history interview recorded in 2019, Lee Rolfs explains that few regulations governed water use when he began working at the Division of Water Resources of the State Board of Agriculture in 1978. He describes how the State responded to depletion of the Ogallala aquifer by creating Groundwater Management Districts (GMD) to manage future development, and to create a comprehensive system to address water issues. Rolfs recalls how the policy positions switched over time from the State being reluctant to regulate groundwater use when the GMDs initially sought restrictions to the opposite, with the GMDs opposing regulations Show Morewhen the State sought to impose them. He recalls his work on ground-breaking litigation with Colorado over water in the Arkansas River (Kansas v. Colorado). That case spanned over 25 years of his career with the State. Rolfs expounds on the Water Appropriation Act and its importance in the development of Kansas and its limitations in addressing the issue of long-term declines in the water table. He observes that cooperation, knowledge, and education are essential for properly managing water in Kansas. Show Less
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