Two right-hand men, one small place

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By Jesse Osbourne


For a small place, Washington County (population 11,717) lays claim to two big political figures. 

Both serve as right-hand men for the governors of Kentucky and Indiana. 

Earl Goode, current chief of staff for Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, and Mike Haydon, current chief of staff for Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, describe their jobs as anything but typical.

“In all honesty, it would be impossible to describe a typical day, other than to say it is literally 24/7,” Haydon said via email recently. “For example, when the tornadoes recently touched down on (March 2), I was on the phone with the Governor until late in the night, coordinating the Governor’s response with affected legislators, local officials,congressional offices and our emergency management team.”

Goode said he oversees two deputy chiefs, a press secretary and general counsel. 

He said his job as chief of staff was much like running a business.  

For instance, he said, when Daniels was elected, the state government showed a large deficit. Now, he said, there is nearly a $2 billion surplus and there are less state employees than there were in the mid 1970’s. 

But, he added, government departments have been able to perform at a high level, citing banner years in the department of transportation. 

Haydon said his job duties have included anything from coordinating the governor’s staff meetings, identifying policy issues, helping form and advance legislative initiatives, as well as harmonizing the governor’s political agenda with his policy agenda. 

Both come from different backgrounds as far as political experience. 

Haydon has a degree in government from Western Kentucky University, and has worked in state and local government since 1975 in both elected and appointed office. 

Goode has a private sector background, serving as a senior executive at GTE Information Services (now Verizon) for a “lifetime,” as he puts it. 

The utility business, he said, has regular business dealings with state regulators. Other than that contact, he’d never given much thought to working for the government. 

He retired in 2001. In 2004, while at home in New Mexico, Daniels was running for governor and a friend suggested to Goode that he think about helping out the future governor. 

Goode said he didn’t know Daniels, and didn’t really consider it. 

After Daniels was elected, a phone call came through. Goode agreed to help Daniels for a few years.

He started out running the Indiana Department of Administration. Soon after, he became chief of staff. 

Governors of both states were highly-supportive of their right-hand men.

“No governor could be as fortunate as I’ve been to have Earl’s services during my entire tenure,” Daniels said via an email through a communications director. “When I met Earl, he was at a point in his career when many are less inclined to take on big challenges. But Earl accepted the assignment, and ever since, he’s played an integral role in helping turn Indiana around. I’m so fortunate – as are Hoosiers – to have benefited from his thoughtfulness, wisdom and ability.”

Beshear was high on Haydon, as well.

“I couldn’t have picked a better Chief of Staff than Mike Haydon,” Beshear said via email through a communications director. “He knows and understands state government at a near-molecular level. He has strong ties with people all over the Commonwealth, and he’s worked in so many different jobs -- from mayor to business owner to the Administrator of Property Valuation -- that he can cut to the heart of a problem quickly because it’s likely he’s seen it before. His experience and vision make my administration stronger, and I’m glad to have him on board.”

Haydon still lives in Springfield and commutes to Frankfort. 

Goode lives in Indiana. He said East Texas was once full of his relatives, and he still has a cousin or two that lives in the county. He attended first and second grade at the Mackville school.