The announcement by Sen. Pat Roberts that he plans to retire at the close of his term prompted an outpouring of gratitude for his decades of service from congressional colleagues and Republican leaders.
Roberts, 82, is halfway through his fourth term in the U.S. Senate following eight terms in the U.S. House, a service streak that dates to 1981. He worked for other Kansas office holders in Washington, D.C., for 14 years before that and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962 after graduating from Kansas State University.
“Roberts has had an impressive tenure as a leader in both the House and the Senate and has served Kansans honorably as chairman of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Ethics Committee," said Sen. Jerry Moran, who serves alongside Roberts as Republicans from Kansas. "Pat’s leadership, wit and ability to bring individuals on both sides of the aisle together, skills he honed in service to our nation as a U.S. Marine, will be missed in Congress. It's been an honor to work with the senior senator from Kansas on behalf of our state. Thank you, Pat, for your friendship and many years of service.”
Gov. Jeff Colyer praised Roberts as "a shining example of statesmanship" over the past 30 years.
“The work that he has done for our state, especially in the agricultural sector, is second to none," Colyer said. "Throughout his time in office, Kansans have been able to rely on Pat Roberts’ expertise, energy, and gravitas. It is essential that our next U.S. Senator bring these same qualities to the job.”
The long list of possible replacements for Roberts includes Colyer and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
Schmidt described Roberts as "a solid cornerpost in the sometimes-unfenced chaos that can be Washington, D.C." He also praised the senator's support for Kansas agriculture and the U.S. military.
"Pat always has led with the needs of Kansas foremost on his mind," Schmidt said. "I am personally saddened to know he plans to exit the stage. In this strident political era, Pat Roberts’ often humorous and frequently tempered conservative voice will be sorely missed. Thanks for your lifetime of public service, Pat.”
Kelly Arnold, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, thanked Roberts for his efforts to support the GOP in Kansas and for dedicating his life and career to public service.
"His seniority and influence will be greatly missed," Arnold said. "The Kansas Republican Party owes Sen. Roberts a debt of gratitude for his many years of friendship and support."
K-State president Richard Myers said Roberts is a distinguished graduate of the school who helped Manhattan land the federal National Bio and Agro-defense Facility.
"Roberts has been a great friend to Kansas State University and an advocate of higher education during his many years of service to Kansas as a senator and congressman," Myers said. "He has been a major supporter of agriculture, helping craft legislation to benefit farmers in Kansas and the nation."
The four U.S. House members from Kansas extended their gratitude to Roberts, including Rep. Sharice Davids. The lone Democrat in the delegation was sworn into office Thursday and thanked Roberts for welcoming her.
"I met with him during my first week of new member orientation and appreciate the time he spent with me," Davids said. "I hope we are able to work together during his final years in office to best serve the people of our state."
The other new member of the Kansas delegation, Rep. Steve Watkins, said Roberts, above all, is a patriot. Roberts is full of selflessness, courage and a burning desire to serve, Watkins said.
"Pat Roberts is the standard bearer for what it means to be a public official," Watkins said. "What Pat Roberts has done for agriculture and the state of Kansas should be appreciated by all. He has dedicated his life to his state and to his country. It has been an honor to have such a man heading the delegation for so long. His guidance, gravitas, and wisdom will be missed on Capitol Hill.”
Rep. Ron Estes thanked Roberts for his lifelong dedication to public service and said he looks forward to working together for two more years on issues that are important to Kansas.
Rep. Roger Marshall said Roberts' achievements as a statesman are among the greatest.
"He’s been a resilient voice advocating on behalf of Kansans for decades, and we will greatly miss his leadership here in Washington," Marshall said.