FRANKFORT — Mike Haydon, Gov. Steve Beshear’s chief of staff and a former mayor of Springfield, died suddenly Sunday of an apparent heart attack.
Kerri Richardson, Beshear’s spokeswoman, confirmed Haydon’s death Sunday afternoon.
Beshear was traveling back from Puerto Rico on Sunday after attending the Southern Governors Association meeting but he issued a statement through his press office.
“Jane and I are shocked and devastated by the sudden death of my chief of staff and good friend, Mike Haydon,” Beshear said in the statement. “Mike’s deep experience in state and local government and his vast knowledge of the issues that really matter to the people of this state made him an invaluable leader in our administration and a strong advocate for local governments. Jane and I will always be grateful for his dedication, counsel, knowledge and sense of humor. We have not only lost a man who dedicated his life to improving the future for Kentuckians; we have also lost one of our best friends.”
The news of Haydon’s death shocked political figures in Frankfort.
“I am saddened and shocked by the death of my good friend, Mike Haydon,” said House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, through his spokeswoman Susan Klimchak. Haydon worked for a time as Adkins’ chief of staff after Adkins became majority leader.
“He helped me enormously when I took on the role of Leader,” Adkins said. “His legislative knowledge, his strategic political ability and ability to work through a problem were so important to me in my early years as Leader. I will miss him dearly.”
Haydon, 62, spent more than 30 years in state and local government, holding a variety of positions in multiple administrations. In addition to serving as Adkins’ chief of staff, Haydon was at one time Property Valuation Administrator for Washington County and served as mayor of Springfield from 2003 to 2006.
He was secretary of Revenue and Commissioner of the Department of Revenue under Gov. Paul Patton before becoming Patton’s Deputy Secretary of the Executive Cabinet.
Haydon went to work for Beshear after Beshear’s election in 2007, serving first as Beshear’s legislative liaison. But in September 2010, when Adam Edelen, Beshear’s chief of staff, resigned to prepare for a run for Auditor of Public Accounts, Beshear chose Haydon to replace Edelen.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said in a statement that he’d known Haydon for more than 20 years, calling him “a true public servant.”
“He had a great understanding of the issues both locally and at the state level, and that experience helped him and those he worked with immensely. On behalf of the Kentucky House, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Haydon family. He will be missed.”
House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said he and Haydon developed a friendship over the years which “transcended politics. He was a very dear friend.”
Despite their different political views, Hoover said he and Haydon enjoyed talking about issues and politics and developed a mutual trust in.
“We developed a friendship that was more important than any one political issue at the time,” Hoover said. “We just had these open and candid conversations – he’d say this is where I am and I’d say this is where the Republican caucus is – and we just trusted each other.”
Haydon is survived by his wife, Lisa, and three adult children.