NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- In today’s highly polarized political climate, non-partisan politics are the exception, not the rule. That makes it all the more remarkable that Kansas’ Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius, appointed a Republican, Duane Goossen, to two important offices.
Goossen is the Kansas Secretary of Administration and budget director. He is also an alumnus of Bethel College--he graduated in 1978 with a double major in peace studies and Bible and religion and a minor in industrial arts.
Goossen attended Goessel High School before coming to Bethel. After he finished college, he returned to Goessel, where he founded a construction company. In 1982, he successfully ran for a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives, a position he held until 1997, when he went to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government to earn a master’s degree in public policy.
In 1998, former governor Bill Graves, a Republican, appointed Goossen state budget director. When she was elected in 2002, current governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, reappointed Goossen to the same position. Two years later, Sebelius announced that Goossen would assume the role of Secretary of Administration, in addition to retaining his role as budget director.
"Although my career path has been pretty different than what I would have expected as a student," said Goossen, "my Bethel College education has helped me all along the way. It has been a very good base for me, and I certainly wouldn’t trade that experience for any other."
When director of church relations Dale Schrag introduced Goossen to the convocation audience, he challenged someone to ask Goossen whether he finds peace studies, Bible and religion or industrial arts to be most useful for working in politics and state government.
Julie Hart, associate professor of sociology and peace studies, did ask Goossen that after convocation was formally over. "Without hesitation, he said ‘peace studies,’" she said. "He said that working in government is a constant exercise in conflict resolution."
Goossen spoke on "How Kansas Spends Your Money" in a Bethel College convocation on Monday, March 6, in Krehbiel Auditorium. You are all Kansas taxpayers, he told the audience, whether you are from Kansas or not. Any time a person buys gas or cigarettes or spends money at a local business, they are putting money into Kansas’ state coffers.
In his convo presentation, Goossen outlined where the state’s money comes from and where it goes, spending the bulk of his time explaining the categories from the State General Fund. Most tax dollars, a total of about 88 cents of every dollar, go toward education and human services.
Although there seems to be much in the news about "tight finances," Goossen’s conclusion was optimistic. "Financially, Kansas is on sound footing," he said. "We’ve got excellent schools. We’ve got a comprehensive higher education system. We’ve got a good basic safety net of human services, well maintained roads and really a dedicated government."
Goossen concluded by complimenting the dedication and effectiveness of the state government. "If you are from Kansas," he said, "you have a lot to be proud of."
Former Bethel president Doug Penner, currently president of the Kansas Independent Colleges Association in Topeka, said of Goossen: "People trust that the budget numbers he presents are consistently fair and accurate and that they don’t reflect some underlying bias or political agenda. He is a man of such integrity and competence that, even in the most partisan of times, he has earned the trust and respect of virtually everyone on both sides of the aisle.
"The fact that a Democratic governor chose to appoint to her cabinet a former Republican legislator and the budget director of the former Republican governor," Penner continued, "speaks volumes about the esteem and respect state leaders have for Duane."
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.