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Shooting the Breeze with Mike Haviland

Nelson Council member talks race cars, litter and running 100 mile races

STB mike haviland
    This Nelson city council member moved here 8-9 years ago after retirement. He was originally from Niles Michigan, having worked in Economic Development for his career. He is married to Drina and they have four sons and three grandchildren.


How did you get here?
    I had retired in Santa Clarita, California after a long career and too many degrees. I am a very analytical person, so my wife and I started making a list of what we wanted in retirement, things like good weather, low crime. [The Atlanta area got bonus points for good access to healthcare]. We wanted a university town and we began taking trips to different spots. We were looking in Indiana, Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky.

But how did you narrow it down to Nelson?
    We were looking all over the north metro area and we felt this was close enough to Reinhardt College. I thought I might teach there or take classes. Actually since I moved here I have completed another degree in motorsports management from Lanier Tech.
    I saw this property and had been living in a very high-density area in California and I realized that for $150,000 I could live on an acre and with trees.

    Give a snapshot of your career?
    I was born in Niles Michigan. I went into the Navy and studied electronics. I attended Michigan State getting both an undergraduate and masters in Urban Planning.
    I have worked for cities in Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and California. I was mostly in the public administration. I brought an approach of applying private sector marketing and planning to the public sector. I would do things like conduct public opinion polls every year to see what people in the communities wanted.
I always did a lot of research.

You have some pretty involved hobbies?
    When I was working in Saginaw, Michigan, I got into road race cars, much like Road Atlanta here. I had been racing since high school and infected with the addiction. I am still involved in what is called autocross. I still own a car. I am on that bottom level of amateur sports. I was never a great driver. I was on a constant learning curve. Kids who started racing karts at 8 years old were always better. Also I am 74 now and driving is for younger people, 18-20 years old. They have no fear and faster reaction times and a sense of determination.
    [Haviland said he is still very involved in the car’s set-up, construction and works the pits at races.]

What about the running?
    In my mid-50s I decided to start running so I would be a fitter driver. I started with some little 5ks and 10ks. Then went to the library and read all the books on running. Then I found a marathon training plan program and thought, ‘I can do this.’ I ran a few marathons and then decided I would work on up to ultra-running (anything longer than a marathon).

Was it hard starting running at age 50?
    I built up to it incrementally.

And you have moved up to ultra-running distances?   
    When I was 56, I did my first ultra-race. I was never spectacularly fast. I am better at the endurance and good at following training plans.
    In 2002, I completed the Badwater Ultramarathon [called the "the world's toughest foot race].” It is a 135-mile race that starts in Death Valley. The hardest part about the Badwater is the heat, it was 128 degrees at one point in the day.

What did your kids and wife say about you in your 60s attempting that race?
They were encouraging. I don’t really know what they think. I do this for me. This was on my bucket list.

Are you still running?
    I am very comfortable running 50-mile races. I did one 100 mile race last year. But it’s mental, not physical. It takes a while to figure out what works for you. I have a pretty good system figured out. I am more the turtle than the hare, but I won every race I entered in the past few years. Of course there are not that many people in their 70s, in my age group.
    I also have two USA Track and Field Championships in the 24-hour races for 70 and over.

You also win awards for picking up litter in Nelson?. KPB recently recognized Havilland with his second consecutive Adopt-A-Road volunteer of the year. [They noted only inmate work details pick up more litter in a year than Haviland].
    I set a goal of picking up 500 bags and that took two years on Pickens Street in Nelson.
    I have been mayor and am still on the city council and I want people to see I seriously care about the community, so I spend an hour or an hour and a half regularly picking up litter. It’s also a good stress relief when I want to get away. I do something good. I don’t know if anyone careas. I get a lot of waves but no one ever joins me.

What do you pick up the most from the roadsides?
    Beer cans and beer bottle and fast food wrappers, some diapers; A lot of not very nice stuff. Please tell your readers, that when they don’t win on a scratch off lottery ticket do not tear it into a million pieces and throw it out the window. I have to pick up all those little pieces. If they would just throw the whole card out it would be easier for me. Also Styrofoam cups which get run over by mowers leave millions of pieces.

You pick up all the pieces?
    I pick up every little piece. I am a bit anal.
    Besides litter clean up I have the cleanest ditches in Nelson. I have also cleaned the kudzu off a sidewalk going into Tate. How do people let a sidewalk get like that? I took it upon myself. Doesn’t anyone care? It’s a major road.

We agreed to avoid city politics for this interview. That aside do you enjoy living in Nelson? Did your analysis of where to move prove correct?
    My wife, who had only lived in California, loves it. We plan on staying here. We have no plans to move again. All communities have some good and bad things. I know a lot of people and a lot more people seem to know me, maybe from being out there picking up litter. I am on the homeowners’ board for Winchester Oaks. I have had different experiences from my work all around the country. People who have spent all their life here have a much different view.
    I am still getting used to the differences here. One thing I see that is a lot different: No one in Michigan would say anything good about Ohio State [Football]. No one in Michigan would be a fan of any other school but a Michigan school. Here you see Georgians who are fans of Florida or Alabama. There are a few things I just don’t understand.

With all these different goals from races to race cars to picking up garbage, you have been a goal oriented person. Where did that come from?
    I don’t know. Why do we do what we do?