BY ROBIN DOUSSARD
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.”
BEING FIRST LADY
“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.”
THEY SAY I’M …
“[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
“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.”