Carter Moelk
KU Statehouse Wire Service
Republican Rep. Mike Kiegerl, Olathe, brings a different perspective to the Kansas legislator, based on both his European background and his interests.
After spending the first 20 years of his life in Germany, Kiegerl came to the United States in 1959. Kiegerl was intrigued by Americans when they occupied Germany after World War II. After living in the United States for a few years and gaining citizenship, Kiegerl decided he wanted to pursue higher education in economics.
“I became very interested in reading about business, and this lead me to study economics,” he said.
He went on to gain an undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Illinois and a master’s in business administration from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. His achievements at both institutions set him on a track for success in business in the United States.
“Throughout studying economics, I learned and agreed with the belief that to be prosperous, we needed to encourage free trade and have less government interference,” Kiegerl said.
This distinctive and strong belief aided Kiegerl in founding several successful companies, including consulting, health-care auditing, and real estate management businesses.
It was also his time in school that Kiegerl had his first look at American politics while watching the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s.
“I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Democrat and Republican at (that) point, but there was a certain ambiance about (John F.) Kennedy that made me listen to politics,” Kiegerl said.
Years later, Kiegerl had a sudden entrance in to politics: It began with a conversation after church.
“I’d never aspired to work in office, but my friends and I were discussing replacing the current representative one morning, and because I’m a successful businessman, they thought of me,” Kiegerl said. “Shortly after, they found another man to run for the job, but two weeks before the primary, he dropped out and I filled the spot.”
Kiegerl went on to win in the 2004 election, defeating the 10-year incumbent and kick-starting his career at the Capitol.
Taking what he learned as a successful businessman, Kiegerl has promoted many of the same views under the dome that he learned from his studies of economics.
“I’m the only economist in the House,” he said. “I believe fiddling with the free market economy is worrisome, and we still need to promote less government interaction.”
While Kiegerl’s interests are focused on business, he does have a soft spot in his heart for the foster-care system.
“I need to speak up for the kids,” Kiegerl said. “I want to make the system better for them.”
Following his calling to help make the foster care system a more effective entity, Kiegerl has supported the cause for years.
“For the last six years I’ve been very focused on how the foster care system is . . . run,” Kiegerl said. “We need to make changes to the structural system.”
Kiegerl believes that the side effects of big government are taking their toll on the foster system as a whole.
“Private can do better than public,” he said.
In addition to his dedication to the foster care system, Kiegerl says he also pays special attention to school finances and budget allocation. He believes that less populated areas of Kansas could benefit by having more funds.
“The union has a ton of power here,” he said. “All they want is more money. . . . We should be distributing funds to smaller districts.”
Working in the legislature means dedication to personal causes, but it also means dedication to compromise. Kiegerl says that a lot of the work that goes into making the legislature run is focused on the power of collaboration.
“The legislature is filled with fine people who work hard, but there can be hostility at times,” Kiegerl said.
“You have to realize you’re not the emperor of Kansas,” Kiegerl said. “You have to learn to be humble and have humility.”
Kiegerl believes he has the qualifications and traits necessary to work across the aisle.
“I’m a Republican, but I work well with Democrats,” Kiegerl said. “I’m good at compromise.”
Whether it’s because of his compromising skills, his business experience, or his viewpoints, Kiegerl has won elections by large margins over the years.
“Last year I won by 70 percent,” he said. “It’s a lot about knowing the people and what they want.”
And while 70 percent is a large margin to most people, Kiegerl wishes that more people would vote; voter turnout was only 40 percent in the last election, he said.
“It’s so important that the people stay informed,” he said. “The people need to know how the process works.”
To try and increase voter turnout and awareness in politics, Kiegerl sends weekly constituent letters to his district, which includes parts of Lenexa, Olathe and Gardner, and encourages anyone interested in what’s happening at the Capitol to contact him.
“I often like to go out to lunch with anyone who’s serious about learning the process,” Kiegerl said. “What’s hard is that most people aren’t like that.”
Despite low levels of civic participation in the area, Kiegerl firmly believes in fighting for his districts’ rights.
“I like to take care of my constituents,” he said. “I always respond and try to help people because it makes me feel good to help where I can. It makes me forget about the places I can’t.”
Edited by Maddy Mikinski