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Oregon's first lady Cylvia Hayes balances life, work and play

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Articles - January 2013
Monday, December 10, 2012



0113 LiveWorkPlay CylviaHayes
First Lady Cylvia Hayes is a passionate advocate for solving poverty and hunger issues.
// Photo courtesy State of Oregon

Cylvia Hayes was raised a “serious farm kid,” driving trucks and running chain saws by the time she was 10. She went on to get her master’s degree in environmental studies from Evergreen State College in Washington. She currently is working on a paid fellowship from the Clean Economy Development Center, based in Washington, D.C., and is policy adviser to Gov. John Kitzhaber on clean energy and economic development. She is also his longtime companion, and as First Lady, she has made poverty and hunger her key issues. She’s a huge football fan (Seattle Seahawks, Ducks and Beavers), and if she could have just one superpower, it would be teleporting. “Because [being First Lady] is a bit too much travel.”


“It was a really hard entry for me. The thing I didn’t see coming was the expectation of the role. The institution hasn’t really caught up to accepting a modern, professional, politically engaged person. I came in expecting not to take the title of First Lady, because [we aren’t married]. But it was impossible not to take it. Most people just started calling me that, and it was too difficult to stop people.”


“[Laughing] It depends on who ‘they’ are. My friends would say I’m hardworking and passionate. My critics would say I’m overly intense and ambitious. John would say I’m a beautiful person inside and out. He just said that the other day.
He tells me that all
the time.”


“I don’t take a lot of actual downtime. But I am very disciplined with my exercise. I look forward to it. It mentally refreshes me. I run, I lift weights. I had knee surgery six weeks ago and have had to tone down the running. At least once a year, John and I have done a big Rogue River trip. I really try a couple times a month to have a no-car weekend. I meditate daily, 20 minutes to an hour.”


“I really dig reality TV. That’s my dirty little secret. I rarely watch shows you have to pay attention to. I like The Voice and Dancing with the Stars. I love The Biggest Loser. It’s people who are struggling with such a really difficult issue. That show probably has more substance.”


“They’re people who have tried to make the world a better place: Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah, Jane Goodall and [Oregonian] Donna Beagle, who overcame abject poverty and is one of my key folks. I hope this doesn’t sound too cheesy, but I also have to put John in that category. What I respect most about him is how hard he works. No one will ever really know how much he has put into it.”



-2 #1 AuthenticGuest 2013-01-08 07:37:24
I am so inspired by Cylvia Hayes--that she is using her position as Oregon's First Lady as an opportunity to address the issues that our legislators don't always get to or agree on--poverty, hunger and protecting our environmental. I am even more inspired by her ability to be herself in the process. Ocean acidification isn't a typical issue for First Ladies! I appreciate that she's approaching what could be a restrictive role in a fresh and independent way. She strikes me as an unusually authentic, smart and competent person. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next!
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+1 #2 Tony TGuest 2014-10-11 10:31:29
You refer to her as the First Lady...I am not sure she is married to the Governor. I am not sure you should recognize her as such until she is actually married to him. I know she was married twice before once to a fellow named Abraham Abraham for Ethiopia!
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