Republican member of the Michigan state legislature (House and Senate, 1971-1990); governor of Michigan (1991-2003); active member of the Republican Governors' Association and the National Governors' Association. The Engler collection consists primarily of materials created and maintained by Governor Engler and his staff during the period when he was governor, 1991-2003. Other records include papers from his several terms in the Michigan House and the Michigan Senate. The collection includes papers files, photographs, sound recordings, videotapes, memorabilia, and some electronic files. The gubernatorial files are arranged mainly by unit or functional responsibility within the governor's office. These series are Executive Office, Communications Division, Legal Division, State Government Affairs, Legislative Affairs Division, Operations Division, External Affairs, Scheduling, Washington DC Office, and Office of the First Lady. Topics extensively documented include state welfare and school funding reform, reorganization of state boards and commissions, notably the restructuring of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Republican party politics.
The John Engler papers are the most important source available for the study of Michigan's state government from 1991 to 2002. The collection is particularly strong on the topics of welfare and school funding reform, state government reorganization and the rising impact of the National Governors' Association in state and national politics. Engler's efforts to attract commerce to Michigan are also well-documented. The materials are arranged into two main subgroups: Pre-gubernatorial Papers and Gubernatorial Papers. The bulk of the material relates to Engler's gubernatorial career, therefore, the analysis that follows focuses primarily on this subgroup.
The materials in the "Gubernatorial Papers" subgroup are arranged according to the offices and subdivisions of the governor's office that created them. This means that the governor's speeches and press releases, for example, may be found within a grouping or "series" called "Communications Division," within the "Gubernatorial" subgroup, while legislative histories for various public acts may be found within the "Legislative Affairs" series.
While some kinds of documents were produced uniquely by one division, other kinds were produced in several divisions of the governor's office. The governor's correspondence, for example, was drafted and approved by several different staff members. Letters to important business and political leaders may be found within the "Executive Office" series, the "State Government Affairs" series, and the "Washington DC Office" series in particular. There no comprehensive chronological correspondence file.
In using the collection, the researcher should think functionally and ask who would have created the information sought. For example, the policy advisors in the State Government Affairs Division created individual topical files which gathered together correspondence and research materials to support briefing memoranda which they presented to the governor, while the speechwriters in the Communications Division often gathered different types of materials to help them shape the presentation of the same policies to the public.