It’s an even-numbered year, so that means legislators who have decided to retire rather than seek re-election are given an “open mic” moment.
In the House, retiring representatives give floor speeches. Clel Baudler of Greenfield kicked the speech-a-thon off this week with a nearly 20-minute speech.
“One thing I will miss is the policies,” Baudler said, “but I will not miss the politics.”
In the Iowa Senate, these public farewells last far longer, sometimes for hours. Colleagues start with compliments, bits of shared humor and sometimes an outright roasting, then the retiree gets to speak. Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa spoke for nearly half an hour after his peers finished.
“For all of the wonderful things that you’ve said, I am so blessed,” Chelgren said, “but I’d also like to spend a little bit of time explaining why I’ve done the things in the order I’ve done them.”
Retiring Senator Rick Bertrand used part of his farewell speech to settle old scores with former Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix. Bertrand revealed he met his wife 23 years ago at the Waveland Tap in Des Moines. That’s the same bar where Dix was pictured kissing a lobbyist — images posted online that prompted Dix to resign last month.
“I mean, you talk about karma,” Bertrand said and his colleagues laughed. “I mean, I laughed my ass off when I heard that. We want to go back there and remake the video, just her and I. It was crazy.”
Senator Bob Dvorsky of Coralville is retiring after 32 years in the legislature and he offered a few “principles” about the legislative process.
“You can probably get most things passed here as long as you don’t care who gets credit for it,” Dvorsky said. “…The second one is we deal in raging incrementalism.”
Dvorsky gave a relatively short, five-minute-long goodbye speech and, like many exiting lawmakers, he choked up at the end.
“We’re here as public servants and we can be proud of that and I will miss all that dearly,” Dvorsky said. “And one other thing I will miss — I will miss all of you.”
Once the reminiscing, advice, compliments and emotional goodbyes are over, some of the retiring senators get a piece of furniture. Lawmakers who’ve served at least 20 years in the state senate get to take the chair from their senate desk.
Neither the House nor the Senate will be in session today. Next week, more farewell speeches are on tap. One more retiring senator has yet to be recognized and 15 other retiring members of the House will have the option of giving a farewell remarks.