At the Annual Awards Dinner and Presentation during SPN’s 29th Annual Meeting, State Policy Network honored Michael J. Reitz of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy with the 2021 Overton Award.
The Overton Award recognizes nonprofit leaders in the state-based, free-market Network who embody the qualities of leadership, loyalty, humility, and support for the cause of liberty. The award is named after Joe Overton, a phenomenal leader in the state-based freedom movement who died before his time. Joe worked at the Mackinac Center as a senior vice president. Like Joe Overton, this award celebrates those right-hand people who may not be in the spotlight, but whose leadership drives effective strategies and multiplies the impact of their organization’s ideas and influence.
No one is more deserving of this award than Mike Reitz. Mike is the executive vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, where he oversees policy development, communications, fundraising, and the Center’s strategic plan.
Before joining the Mackinac Center, Reitz was the general counsel and director of labor policy at the Freedom Foundation in Washington.
In his day-to-day work, Mike ensures Mackinac runs well and accomplishes its vision to make Michigan a freer and more prosperous state. Under his strategic guidance, Mackinac has secured several important policy wins that have protected individual rights and Michigan residents more opportunities for meaningful work, secure retirement, and second chances. A few highlights include passing right-to-work legislation, reforming pensions for school employees, reforming the state’s criminal justice system, and expanding ridesharing through ground-breaking legislation.
Mike is deeply passionate about his work because he understands the human suffering that arises from the misuse of power. That’s why Mike and the Mackinac team strive to be responsive to needs of Michigan’s people. From state lockdowns to historic flooding to pension reform, the Mackinac team works together to make sure public policy and government power don’t become barriers to people’s freedom, opportunity, and happiness.
Joseph G. Lehman, president of Mackinac, noted: “Mike has one of those essential leadership qualities of not waiting to be told what to do, but looking around, seeing what needs to be done, and then doing it and making sure it gets done.”
When Mike is in Mackinac’s Midland office, he sits at Joe Overton’s old desk. Reflecting on the honor, Mike noted:
“Joe Overton was tragically killed 18 years ago, but his influence is still felt at the Mackinac Center and around the world. Joe believed that the cause of liberty deserved professional institutions with lively thinkers and effective communicators, and he inspired others to build similar institutions.
Joe Overton understood leverage. A favorite quote of his came from Henry David Thoreau: ‘There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.’ Every organization needs people like Joe Overton—those who take the vision and set it in motion.
My colleagues at the Mackinac Center and I are grateful that the State Policy Network honors Joe’s legacy through the Overton Award.
Thank you, SPN, for this honor. The things that made America a beacon for the world are the same things that I love about SPN: We are a nation and a Network built on the idea of liberty; we prefer collaboration over central control; ideas are more important than power; and states are the first line of defense for liberty.”
Tracie Sharp added: “Congratulations, Mike. We are so grateful for your leadership and your example to others in this Network.”
Congratulations, Mike! It’s inspiring to see a Network leader embody Joe Overton’s high standards for professionalism, excellence, and success.