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At the wheel
For retired fire captain Dale Hayden, driving a school bus is 'an honor'

School bus drivers often develop an intimate knowledge of the nooks and crannies of Manhattan’s streets, but Dale Hayden already had that before he started working with Manhattan-Ogden’s transportation department 20 years ago.

For 32 and a half years, Hayden, 68, was a firefighter with the Manhattan Fire Department. He retired as a captain in 2014. But before becoming a lieutenant (MFD renamed its lieutenant position to captain during Hayden’s last year), he drove one of the department’s fire trucks, finding ways to fit the relatively large truck down narrow streets and alleyways.

The Fort Scott native originally came with his wife to Manhattan to attend K-State, but after he lost interest in school, he worked a few jobs and then joined the fire department in 1982. Like most firefighters, Hayden found himself with four-day breaks after nine days of 24-hour rotations, so he looked for something else to keep busy in his off-time.

“Someone who worked at the station recommended that I come down and apply, and on a whim, I came down and was hired pretty much right away. I had all of the licensing, except the student portions of it, but I did the trainings for that.”

“They really liked that I knew all of the streets, since in the fire department, you have to know all of them,” he continued. “There’s a lot to the job that people don’t see, and knowing the streets in town is part of that.”

Hayden started as a “spare,” filling in for permanent drivers who were sick or driving students to out-of-town activities and games. He did that alongside his fire captain role for 15 years, and when he retired from the fire department, he became a permanent driver. He now drives a special education bus, with three routes in the morning and three routes in the afternoon.

Hayden is often the first person some Manhattan-Ogden students see early in the morning, and that means Hayden’s day starts that much earlier, so he goes to bed early. Every morning, he clocks in at 5:55 a.m. Hayden then starts a 20-minute daily inspection of his bus, checking every part to make sure students will be safe on that day’s routes.

His preparation extends before the school day, though. While a computer generates optimized routes for the drivers, Hayden said he drives the routes ahead of time to look for any potential obstacles, like construction.

Most days, the morning routes run smoothly, and Hayden said he often has time to stop at a convenience store to take a quick restroom break or grab something to munch on. The afternoon routes? Not so much, although he typically finishes by 5 p.m.

“When the college students come back, it’s murder out there,” he said. “Especially on Friday afternoons. Getting away from the high school on Sunset is really hard, but we get it done, and a lot of times, the elementary schools are understanding and know if we’ll be late.”

In between routes, Hayden said he’s enjoyed riding motorcycles, gardening or going out to drink coffee with friends, but he’s especially liked having time to spend with his kids and grandkids, particularly compared to when he was a firefighter.

With a special education bus, Hayden’s routes are often for just a few students, but he said that allows him to know the students a lot better — as well as their parents, since they often wait with their children outside their homes.

When he drove regular buses, it was difficult to get to know students because he drove different routes.

“I would say good morning to everyone when I was driving the big bus. You’d get a few kids who might grunt back at you, especially the high schoolers, who mostly went back to sleep on the bus,” he joked.

Driving a special needs bus is mostly the same as driving any other bus, although making stops takes a little more time.

“Being a special needs bus, we do take more time,” he said. “It takes time to get kids up or disconnected from wheelchair restraints and to operate the lift. If you see us, we might be there for a while, so please don’t get impatient with us.”

Andrea Adams, director of transportation for the district, said Hayden’s been a model driver in her time in the position.

“Dale’s just a stellar guy,” she said. “A lot of the parents respect him and ask for him by bus number and by name. If I could have 100 Dale’s, I’d never have any issues.”

Hayden said his job has been “an honor,” and he’s enjoyed building a sense of trust with his students and their parents. “They trust you, and it’s good to know that they trust you,” he said. “It’s an honor, and it’s fun getting to know the students.

“As long as I can drive, I probably will,” he continued. “They always need drivers, and it’s a good job for retired people like me.”

Bob Dole endorses Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall in Senate race

Kansas Republican icon Bob Dole has endorsed Rep. Roger Marshall’s campaign for U.S. Senate, a major boost to the congressman who holds the same House seat Dole had at the start of his political career.

The former Senate majority leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee announced his support for Marshall a week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ruled out the race to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts.

Marshall represents the 1st Congressional District, a vast expanse of western and central Kansas. Dole, 96, represented the same district from 1961 to 1969 before his election to the U.S. Senate.

“I’m proud to endorse my Congressman, Dr. Roger Marshall, for the U.S. Senate. He’s a true friend to me and a true friend to Kansas,” Dole said in a statement.

“Dr. Marshall is hard working, loyal and dedicated to preserving common-sense Kansas values in the U.S. Senate. He has my full trust and I know he will represent our state well.”

In an October interview, Marshall pointed to Dole as a mentor. “I probably spend more time talking to him than I do anybody else up here looking for advice. Probably once a week we communicate,” he said.

Marshall said in a statement Monday he was honored by Dole’s endorsement.

“He set the bar high before, during and after he was in elected office, and he continues to today,” Marshall said. “I could not be more honored than I am in accepting this endorsement, and I accept the tremendous responsibility that comes with it.”

Marshall championed legislation last year to grant Dole, who received two Purple Hearts in World War II, the honorary rank of colonel for his service.

Dole donated $1,000 to Marshall’s campaign committee in August before the congressman officially joined the Senate race.

In addition to Dole, both Roberts and Sen. Jerry Moran represented “the Big First” before jumping to the Senate.

Dole’s support for Marshall reflects the importance geography may play when Republicans hold their primary in August. The 1st, which takes in 63 counties, has more Republican voters than any other in the congressional district in the state.

His endorsement is also a sign that establishment Republicans may be coalescing around Marshall after Pompeo decided to forgo the race.

Dole endorsed Marshall in 2016 when he was first elected to the U.S. House, but waited until after the primary to lend his support. Dole’s early endorsement in the Senate race is a sign of the stakes for Kansas Republicans in 2020.

National GOP leaders have been vocal about their concern that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the party’s 2018 nominee for governor, could give Democrats an opportunity to flip the Senate seat after more than eight decades of Republican dominance.

State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Johnson County Democrat, raised more than $1.1 million for her campaign during the last three months of 2019, a sign that the party sees the seat as competitive.

Dole’s support doesn’t guarantee Marshall’s victory in the Republican primary. He supported then-Gov. Jeff Colyer in the 2018 primary for governor, but Kobach won by 343 votes after a last-minute endorsement from President Donald Trump.

rgarcia / Staff photo by Rafael Garcia  

The lawn and shrubbery in front of K-State’s Anderson Hall remained iced over Monday morning. Weekend ice storms covered much of the area starting Friday, and several area schools and organizations that closed early Friday were still closed Monday because of icy conditions. K-State students return for classes Jan. 21.

1 injured in 11-car crash on bridge near Manhattan

One person was injured in an 11-vehicle crash on Kansas Highway 18 near Manhattan Friday evening.

According to a Kansas Highway Patrol report, Keaton Lind, 22, Everett, Washington, was traveling west on K-18 about eight miles west of Manhattan and lost control of his car because of ice on the road around 4:30 p.m. The vehicle hit bridge rails on both sides of the road.

The incident caused 10 other vehicles to crash behind it as they could not slow down or stop soon enough.

Emergency responders suspected one passenger, Shardae Pigue, 32, Manhattan, suffered a minor injury but did not take her to a hospital.

Other drivers and passengers involved included Peris Ngunjiri, 32, Euclid, Ohio; Kaytlyn Aragon, 27, Choctaw, Oklahoma; Marlene Snyder, 60, Milford; Heriberto Benitez, Mexico; Patricia Alarcon Rivera, 43, Mexico; Christopher Pigue, 31, Manhattan; Christopher Pigue Jr., 2, Manhattan; Kyla Pigue, 9, Manhattan; Khloe Pigue, 7, Manhattan; Yamir Bravo-Chico, 38, Fort Riley; William Swanson, 63, Alpha, Minnesota; Dianne Swanson, 62, Alpha, Minnesota; Andrew Wolf, 36, Junction City; Joshua Beanblossom, 25, Junction City; Cara Detar, 18, Coffeyville; Glenn Devlin, 22, Junction City; Matthew Lynn, 21, De Soto; and Dakota Troyer, 24, Hutchinson.

Officials did not report any other injuries.

Law enforcement officials asked drivers to avoid the area for about two hours as they worked the scene.

Kansas lawmakers open session, see big tax, Medicaid debates

TOPEKA — Kansas lawmakers returned Monday to the Statehouse to open their annual session expecting big debates on tax cuts and Medicaid expansion.

Both the House and Senate were set to convene at 2 p.m.

Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature planned to push again this year for income tax cuts after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed two bills last year. GOP leaders want to provide relief to individuals and businesses paying more to the state because of changes in federal tax laws at the end of 2017 championed by President Donald Trump.

Expanding the state’s Medicaid health coverage for as many as 150,000 additional people is a top priority for Kelly. She and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, have drafted a bipartisan proposal.

Kelly is scheduled to give the annual State of the State address Wednesday evening to a joint session of the Legislature. Her aides expect to outline details of her proposed budget Thursday morning.