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Hays hopes to use career in law, Air Force to help with run for Lawrence City Commission

February 19, 2013


Reese Hays is betting he won’t have many problems navigating the sometimes choppy waters that a city commissioner sometimes encounters at Lawrence City Hall.

He’s had practice in a slightly different governmental arena: the government of Iraq.

Hays, one of 11 candidates seeking a seat on the Lawrence City Commission, worked as a special counsel to the Iraqi justice system while serving as a member of the U.S. Air Force’s corps of JAG attorneys.

“You really have to focus on how to get things accomplished for the betterment of all,” Hays said. “I can tell you that it really helped me fine-tune my diplomacy.”

During the one-year assignment, Hays helped the Iraqis learn everything from the basics of fingerprint technology to proper ways to gather and question witnesses. Many times, Hays' work involved helping the Iraqi government make cases against Iraqi citizens accused of setting roadside bombs and making other attacks against coalition forces.

Hays mainly served as a resource to Iraqi judges and others in the justice system. It was a role he liked, and he said the idea of serving as a resource to Lawrence residents is how we would approach the job of city commissioner.

“Basically, I see a commissioner as a voice of the residents,” Hays said. “It is a commissioner’s job to vote in a way that is consistent with the wishes of a majority of residents.”

Law and order

Hays, 36, is the chief litigation counsel for the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts. Hays essentially serves as a prosecutor in cases involving complaints that medical professionals have violated state licensing standards.

But for years, Hays played a different role in the legal system. After a short time in college, Hays left to become a trooper for the Kansas Highway Patrol.

He ended up being part of the crew that patrolled the counties surrounding Kansas City, handling everything from traffic fatalities to drug cases.

“I took away from that experience that if you work hard, you can actually do some good,” Hays said. “You can help others. A lot of times when you are interacting with someone as a police officer, it is at one of their worst moments. At that point, though, you can really make an impact on someone’s life, if you just take time to care.”

Eventually, though, Hays realized being a lawyer was perhaps his calling after he noticed that he was spending large amounts of time studying law books to find out more about the cases he had been involved in.

“I got to the point that I wanted to be the guy who people came to for advice,” Hays said.

Hays said his experience working in the public sector should serve the commission well. He said during his time in the Air Force he often served as an adviser for the Wing Commander, a position he said is kind of an Air Force base’s equivalent of a mayor.

“When you have had the experience of being involved in decisions at the point where the rubber meets the road, I think it helps you recognize when you might be creating some unintended consequences,” Hays said.


Hays said figuring out ways to address the needs of the Police Department should be a high priority of the next City Commission. He said the department has a shortage of facility space and also is facing personnel and equipment needs.

“I feel like there are some critical items that are not just nice-to-have items but are necessities to ensure citizens are protected in a proper way and to ensure the police force is operating at an excellent level,” Hays said.

On other issues:

• Hays said he wants city budgets to focus on funding “basic services,” and forecasting major expenditures that will be needed in the future.

• He has said he supports a citywide election on the proposed $25 million city recreation center.

“If the public wants that facility and they want to go use it, that will show itself on the day that people go to vote on it,” Hays said. “If we have voters buying into the project, it will make it that much better.”

A Feb. 26 primary will narrow the field of 11 city commission candidates down to six. The general election — where the top three vote winners will take a seat on the commission — will be April 2.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

I'm not sure how much carry over there is from the neocon experiment in Iraq, wherein the entire social fabric of the country was ripped to shreds, and a new "democracy" was imposed by the American autocrats in the Green Zone. And given the total chaos that still pervades in most of that country, its level of success is quite questionable. That's not necessarily the fault of Mr. Hays, who was just there doing the job assigned to him, but it doesn't make a convincing campaign platform for the drudgery that dominates city commission business.

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

Bozo, you have been repeatedly calling for a pubic vote on the rec center, and have provided a link on several occasions for folks interested in signing a petition. I agree with you and I appreciate your efforts to publicize the petition.

Given your position, and given the fact that Mr. Hays is one of the few candidates who have come out in favor of a public vote for the rec center, don't you think it might be more appropriate to mention that, instead of critiquing his military service as not being germane to the job of city commissioner.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

I didn't critique his military service. Just noted that attempting to restructure a society destroyed by war isn't all that similar to conducting this city's affairs.

That said, his other statements are encouraging.

dozer 5 years, 3 months ago

I'm curious to know if the general counsel position Hays occupies is a political appointment from the Governor's Office. Most Kansas agency general council positions are political. Can the LJ world shed some light on that for us? I'd also like to know his rank when he left the Air Force. If he spent more than 4 years as a Captain, there is something in his background.

rhhays 5 years, 3 months ago

Dozer, thank you for the interest. As the article stated, I am the Litigation Counsel for the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts. I am not the General Counsel for the Board. I was hired by the members of the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts and our Executive Director and I serve at their pleasure.

To address my rank while on Active Duty, I initially was appointed as a USAF JAG through the direct appointment program in October of 2006. All USAF JAGs who are direct appointees are initially appointed as 1st Lieutenants and at six months of time in service at the rank of 1st Lieutenant, are promoted to Captain. This was how I was promoted to Captain in April of 2007.

The time that a JAG Officer is required to be a Captain before they are eligible to promote to Major is determined by the year group they are initially promoted to Captain and the projected number of vacancies there will be created by current Majors promoting or separating. By statute, there are a limited number of officers at any given rank in each of the services. The Air Force then creates a zone for promotion. Right now that is around six to seven years. My year group who is still on Active Duty is going to be meeting their first promotion board this year or early next year. While on Active Duty I did not have the time in grade to meet a promotion board; therefore, I was not promoted while on Active Duty. If you would like more information about the promotion system of the USAF please see USAF Personnel Center website at:

I separated from Active Duty through the Palace Chase program that allowed me to transfer directly from the Active Duty to the Kansas Air National Guard. As biographical information: I am currently a Kansas Air National Guard JAG Officer and serve as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the 190th Air Refueling Wing at Forbes Field, Topeka, Kansas. In October of 2012, I met my first Kansas Air National Guard promotion board and was picked up for Major. In the National Guard we have another step to do before we pin on our new rank and that is to get federal recognition of our promotions. That process takes four to six months from the time our promotion board meets and picks someone up for a new rank. My federal recognition process has been completed and is currently awaiting the Secretary of Defense signature. The Secretary does those promotions in batches and promotees from all states in the months of September, October, and November are awaiting this signature. It is planned that I will pin on Major here in the next couple of months.

Thank you again,


If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to send me an email to, or you can always go to my website at: or my Facebook page at:

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

Congratulations on your promotion, Reese, and thanks for your service.

Mass1999 5 years, 3 months ago

I think being an advocate for the majority is an excellent platform. Also as a taxpayer, I want someone to be concerned about funding essential services- especially those that deal with safety.

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