J.R. Claeys is the State Representative for west Salina and northwest Saline County, serving the family, friends and neighbors he grew up with. J.R. was born and raised in Salina and is proud to serve the 69th District in the Kansas House of Representatives.
J.R. is known in the Kansas Legislature as a Conservative Fighter, defending Kansas values of Life, Faith and Family. He won the Award for Conservative Excellence from the American Conservative Union and co-authored welfare reform legislation that moved thousands from welfare to work.
Growing a strong economy and good-paying jobs in Kansas led J.R. to public service. Raised in a family rooted in agriculture and entrepreneurship, J.R. worked to cut red tape and make starting a business easier in Kansas. His career in small business advocacy prepared him to lead the fight against punishing taxes and the heavy burden of regulation.
An expert on transportation issues, J.R. designed budgets that maintained a Kansas highway system ranked as one of the top two in the nation — and a rural interstate system ranked number one in the country. J.R. served on the Transportation Vision Task Force, developing the state’s 10-year transportation program, and is a member of the Kansas Unmanned Aircraft Systems Joint Task Force.
Committed to keeping your family safe, J.R. championed the plan to increase the number of State Troopers on our highways, and delivered on a new prison to prevent early releases of dangerous criminals.
J.R. serves in a number of leadership roles in the Kansas House of Representatives including Chairman of the Transportation & Public Safety Budget Committee, Chairman of the General Government Budget Committee, and Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Building Construction.
The youngest of three and a fifth-generation Kansan, J.R. Claeys was raised in a middle-class family in Salina, Kansas. It was there that his parents, Joe and Judy Claeys, instilled in him the value of hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit. Mowing lawns for the elderly on the weekends with his dad, J.R. learned the importance of service and community.
J.R.’s father, Joe Claeys, was born and raised in Axtell, Kansas where his parents owned a downtown business. His parents were ranchers in Blue Rapids, Kansas before losing their livelihood in the Great Depression. J.R’s grandfather weathered the depression by working for the railroad before settling in Axtell. J.R. tried his hand in the family trade, spending part of his summer working for Claeys Harvesting on his uncle’s combines, harvesting wheat in south-central Kansas up through northeast Colorado, before heading to K-State.
J.R.’s mother, Judy, grew up in Salina, Kansas. Her father drove a dairy truck and later worked for Graves Truck Lines. J.R.’s grandfather also served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific during World War II. After raising four children, J.R.’s grandmother worked in the front office at Motor Service in Salina.
J.R.’s parents met in Salina where his mother attended Marymount College and his father started work for Western Electric before serving in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. J.R.’s father retired as a technician for AT&T where he served for over 50 years. His mother is a first grade teacher at St. Mary’s Grade School where she has taught Salina children for over 35 years.
J.R. is married to Caitlin Claeys. Caitlin works at Sunset Elementary School in west Salina. J.R. and Caitlin live in south Salina with a son who attends St. Mary’s Grade School. They are parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Catholic Church.
After graduating from Sacred Heart High School in Salina, J.R. attended Kansas State University where he was involved in nonprofit student media and later worked for The Manhattan Mercury, receiving several state and national awards for his work. This is where J.R. first decided to pursue work in the nonprofit sector for charities and civic organizations. After the attacks of 9/11, J.R. became a founding member of a volunteer networking organization that matched volunteers with charitable organizations seeking help.
At K-State, J.R. was recognized by the Manhattan City Council with a Community Service Award for his volunteer work with the Riley County Police Department and Crimestoppers.
After graduating from K-State, J.R. went to Washington, D.C. to work in fundraising for the Republican National Committee. He went on to earn his Master of Public Administration degree from The George Washington University School of Business, where he studied nonprofit management.
J.R. went to school at night while working as director of communications for the National Small Business Association (NSBA), a Washington, D.C. based small-business advocacy organization with over 150,000 member companies. There he advocated for reforms to encourage small business growth across America and was selected as a U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy National Small Business Week Awards Judge in 2004.
J.R. also served as the director of communications for the Small Business Exporters Association and the Small Business Technology Coalition. He was the spokesman for the Coalition Supporting Equity for Our Nation’s Self-Employed, a coalition of business associations supporting tax fairness for self-employed health care costs, as well as the Small Business Coalition for Equitable Health Insurance, a coalition of businesses and trade associations supporting a market-based approach to health insurance coverage.
From there, J.R. worked in communications and government affairs, and was later selected as the President and CEO of the National Association of Government Contractors (NAGC), a trade association for small and midsize businesses involved in government contracting. J.R. has been an advocate for a fair and transparent procurement process and increased access to government contracts for small businesses. As president, J.R. assisted thousands of small businesses seeking work with federal, state and local government agencies.
J.R. is quoted as an expert on small-business legislative issues in major publications, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and others. He has also appeared on national radio programs and television news channels representing small businesses throughout the country.
In 2011, J.R. was selected to testify on behalf of small businesses before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2012, J.R. testified before the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce, representing small businesses involved in the GSA Schedule.
Public Service Experience
Continuing in his commitment to promoting conservative principles, J.R. served as Chairman of the Kansas Young Republicans. He is also a former member the State Executive Committee of the Kansas Republican Party.
J.R. has served as a senior advisor, campaign manager, and general consultant for Republican congressional and gubernatorial races in Kansas.
J.R. also managed fundraising and pre-rally activities for the 2018 Topeka visit of President Donald J. Trump at the Kansas Expocentre, with over 13,000 in attendance. He also managed the rally and event planning for the Wichita visit of Vice President Mike Pence in 2018.
J.R. is Salina’s Representative, first elected in 2012 to the Kansas House of Representatives. Reelected in 2014, 2016 and 2018, J.R. serves as the chairman of the Committee on General Government Budget, and as a member of the Committee on Transportation, and the powerful Committee on Appropriations in the Kansas House of Representatives.
J.R. also serves as a member of the transportation planning Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force and the Kansas Unmanned Aircraft Systems Joint Task Force.
J.R. and his wife, Caitlin, are the Republican precinct committee members from Salina’s Precinct 31.