Leadership for a New Era of Freedom

Published August 21, 2017

In July, Dr. Tim Huelskamp succeeded me as president of The Heartland Institute. I intend to serve as chief executive officer until the end of the year, and then Dr. Huelskamp will hold both titles, as I did since 1994. Conservative and libertarian think tanks do not have a very good record managing corporate successions, but we believe this change in leadership will position Heartland for unprecedented growth and influence for a new era of freedom.

Time to Move On

Being president of The Heartland Institute is probably the best job in the world, but it is also hard work. For the past two years I’ve been looking for someone who could take my place, so Diane and I can finally take some time off to pursue other interests, but even more importantly to take Heartland farther than I have been able to go, to a higher level of influence on public policy.

David Padden and I co-founded The Heartland Institute in 1984, when I was still attending the University of Chicago. I worked part-time for the first six months, and then Heartland became an all-consuming passion for the following 33 years. Diane Bast, my wife and soul mate, joined Heartland in 1986 and held several positions in the organization, currently senior editor and chief financial officer.

The organization grew from one part-time employee working out of a donated room in a law firm to 40 full-time staff and our own 13,000 square foot building in Arlington Heights, Illinois. With help from a 12-member Board of Directors, nearly 500 policy advisors, 250 legislative advisors, and more than 5,000 donors, we produce an outstanding program that ranks us among the top ten free-market think tanks in the world.

With the help of dedicated board members and Heartland’s senior staff, we found the ideal candidate to take my place and successfully wooed him. He started full-time in July.

Who Is Tim Huelskamp?

Dr. Tim Huelskamp is a former three-term member of Congress and well-known national conservative leader.  He was a fifth-generation family farmer in Kansas, where he farmed with his family for more than 30 years (before serving in Congress made that impossible). He left Kansas to earn a BA summa cum laude from the College of Santa Fe and a Ph.D. in political science from The American University in Washington, DC, where he met his future wife, Angela.

Tim served in the Kansas Senate from 1997 to 2011. There, he chaired or co-chaired three committees: Elections and Local Government, Information Technology, and Medicaid Reform. He co-founded and led both a bicameral conservative caucus and a coalition of statewide conservative groups to coordinate legislative efforts.

Tim represented Kansas’ First District in Congress from 2011 until 2017. He helped grow the House Freedom and Liberty Caucuses, chaired and expanded the Tea Party Caucus, fought EPA’s crazy Waters of the United States Rule, worked on budgets and health care reform in the Republican Study Committee, and co-founded Conversations with Conservatives, a monthly House conservative press availability.

The Ideal Candidate

Tim is the ideal candidate to take over leadership of The Heartland Institute. He has served in a state legislature as well as in Congress, giving him the experiences of running for office and then writing and voting on legislation. Elected officials (especially state legislators) are Heartland’s principal audience, and Tim understands their needs better than I ever could.

Tim’s doctorate degree in political science from The American University gives him another qualification I lack. I’ve never been much impressed by college degrees, especially those granted after the Left successfully occupied college campuses and replaced instruction with indoctrination. But a Ph.D. from The American University is an impressive achievement, and in Tim’s case it reflects a sharp intellect and skill at mastering complex subjects quickly and being able to write about them.

Tim was born and lived all his life in Kansas, returning home every weekend while serving in Congress. Kansas has as good a claim as, maybe a better claim than, Illinois to being the very heart of America’s heartland. His values, commitment to family, and work ethic all reflect the best of the heartland.

When Tim interviewed for the job, I was worried he might be tempted to return to Washington, DC, either as an elected official, staff member to the same, or lobbyist, as so many former congressmen do. That worry was quickly dispelled during our first trip to that swampy place. Tim was even more cynical about the people we met and elected officials still serving than I am, something I didn’t think was even possible!

Tim has no intention of returning to Washington. He and Angela and their four children moved to Illinois, just a short drive from the office, and they intend to put down deep roots here. That’s very good news for The Heartland Institute.

The Ideal Time

Dr. Huelskamp arrives at The Heartland Institute at the ideal time. The election of Donald Trump gave the country a second chance to rescue freedom from a possibly lethal threat. Policy ideas we have long championed—including deregulation, educational choice, market-based reforms of health care finance, and a free-market approach to energy and environmental protection—are suddenly at the forefront of the national debate.

Heartland has the tools to really make a difference in the world. Our original research, publications, and marketing and communications programs put us head-and-shoulders above many other think tanks that are two or even three times our size. The niche we are trying to fill in the freedom movement is much bigger than our current reach. Tim can help us scale up to meet the demand for our good work.

Tim is eager to work with governors and state legislators across the country on ways to reform health care now that “repealing and replacing” Obamacare is off the table, at least for a while. He plans to continue our important work on climate change, the issue that made The Heartland Institute known around the world as a critic of liberal exaggeration and alarmism.

Tim Needs Your Help!

Tim and I will work side-by-side in the coming months to take advantage of all the opportunities to help make freedom rise again. I won’t quit until I am sure the baton has been successfully handed off to someone who can do a better job than I have or could do. I certainly hope you won’t quit, either.

Tim needs and deserves your support! Now is a great time to make a special gift to The Heartland Institute. If you are already a donor, please call 312/377-4000 and ask to speak to Tim. I’m convinced you will be as impressed by him as I am!