Friends and colleagues are remembering Kootenai County Clerk Cliff Hayes as a public official who stood for integrity and transparency.
Hayes, 62, died this morning at his home near Post Falls. The cause of death is pending an autopsy, and sheriff’s detectives found no suspicious circumstances, authorities said.
“He just had impeccable integrity and was a fabulous role model,” said Pat Raffee, the county’s chief deputy clerk. “He also just grounded everything he did in the law, and if there wasn’t a law that applied, he always did the right thing. That’s not always an easy trait to find in the world anymore.”
Hayes was Post Falls police chief for 22 years and, running as a Republican, was elected county clerk in 2010. He planned to serve one term only. The county clerk oversees more than 90 employees in the elections, district court, auditor, recorder and county assistance offices.
“Cliff relished being a public servant that the public would be proud of,” Raffee said. “It made him very happy to be a public servant of excellence, and I think that’s inspiring for all of us.”
Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug worked with Hayes more than 20 years and considered him a mentor and good friend.
“He was so passionate about Post Falls that everything he did was thinking of the community,” Haug said. “He really had a passion to make sure that we were a very professional police department, that we understood that we provided a service and worked for the community.”
“He’s just one of those men that you admire and respect,” he added.
The county’s Republican Central Committee will forward three nominations to the Board of Commissioners in the next 15 days to consider for appointment of interim clerk. The position will be on the ballot in 2014.
“Cliff brought an objective and comprehensive perspective to his position at the county. He championed transparency and integrity. His focus was doing what was best for the citizens of the county,” the three county commissioners said in a joint statement. “We enjoyed working with him and we will miss him very much.”
Hayes, who also served as acting city administrator of Post Falls three times, had no law enforcement training before joining the police department as a dispatcher in 1983. He’d been a buyer for Kroger supermarkets before moving to the city. He soon became a patrolman, and two years after that detective sergeant.
Hayes was appointed interim chief in late 1987, and the job was made permanent the next year.
“Throughout his career he changed this department from sort of a Mayberry-type police department with a handful of officers to the department that it is today,” Haug said.
Hayes also was a good steward of public funds, he said. “No matter what the project was, he always wanted us to do due diligence to save as much money as we could or justify the project we were working on,” Haug said.
Hayes retired as police chief in 2009. The following year he defeated 15-year incumbent Dan English for county clerk. After that election, “We both agreed that we appreciated that both of us had run straightforward campaigns and had kept on the issues,” English said.
The two men also have “shared a laugh over the trials and tribulations of being clerk,” he added.
State Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, praised Hayes as an important public servant and “genuinely nice guy.”
“He was by the book, he was rigid, but always fair and just an outstanding manager of people,” Henderson said.
He said Hayes had expressed interested in running for the Idaho Legislature, perhaps a bid for the Senate next year.
“Cliff has always been highly respected up here,” Henderson said. “He would’ve had a very strong background to be in the Legislature.”
Hayes and his wife Jeanne were married 36 years and had five children.