Updated 2:15 p.m. with comments from Elaine Adams.
Before he takes the oath of office to become Kansas’ next governor — and the first from Hays — on Wednesday, Jeff Colyer will start his day in his hometown.
Gov. Sam Brownback will resign at 3 p.m. Wednesday, a week after his confirmation by the U.S. Senate as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a 1978 graduate of Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, then will be sworn in.
Before then, however, Colyer will be in Hays for a 9 a.m. Mass at TMP. The Mass is by invitation only and not open to the public. At 10 a.m., Colyer will tour West Side Alternative Mental Health Center, 323 W. 12th.
He'll have lunch at Al’s Chickenette, 700 Vine, before leaving for Topeka.
Colyer, an Overland Park plastic surgeon, last year became the longest-serving lieutenant governor of Kansas and will be only the fourth to become governor upon a resignation.
He also is running to be the Republican nominee for governor in this year’s elections.
TMP Chaplain Father Earl Befort, who has been with the school for 48 years, said he recalls Colyer as a good student academically who was outgoing and friendly.
“He was very much a classmate and friend, and someone you could really count on to do the right thing,” Befort said.
Colyer was one student who showed promise to do great things, Befort said.
“I think you always see in certain students that they’re going to do well, they’re going to have a good profession and be good people. He was one of those,” he said.
Befort said those are characteristics he’s seen grow in Colyer, citing his volunteer work.
A plastic surgeon, Colyer has volunteered with International Medical Corps for 25 years and worked in 20 war zones including Rwanda, Iraq, the Balkans, Syria and South Sudan.
“If anything, it’s become more prominent in his life, the importance of honesty and integrity. Those types of things were important then, and I think they still are,” Befort said.
Colyer’s outgoing, friendly qualities are part of why Elaine Adams, chair of the Ellis County Republic Party, expects Colyer to approach governorship differently than Brownback. She also expects his approach to issues will be different.
“I think they’re both totally different on how they look at things, too. They work well together, but that doesn’t mean they felt the same about everything,” she said.
“I think Gov. Colyer will probably be more of a person who will reach across aisles, too,” she said.
Being the incumbent, even for a short time, could give him a political boost in the field of 11 vying for the Republican nomination, she said.
And his ascension to governor gives Hays some bragging rights, she added.
Colyer, a fifth-generation Hays native, has spoken of the important role Hays and TMP played in his life.
“I didn’t imagine I was going to be governor then, but I was very interested in public policy and how do we make this a better place,” he told The Hays Daily News in August.
“The experience of Hays was really the most important part for me, and I think for a lot of people from Hays, America,” he said.
“It’s going to be a touchstone” as governor, he said.
From TMP, Colyer went to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he received a degree in economics. He continued his education with a master’s degree in International Relations from Clare Hall, Cambridge in England and his medical degree from the University of Kansas.
He also interned with Sen. Bob Dole and served as a White House Fellow in international affairs under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
He was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in the 48th District in 2006, then to the Senate two years later, representing the 37th District. He became Brownback’s lieutenant governor in the 2010 election.