Sen. Mike Cunningham’s Legislative Column for Dec. 28, 2020

Legislative Column for December 28, 2020

It was a week before Christmas when I picked up one final box of personal belongings and walked out of my Missouri State Capitol office for the last time. With all legislative activity done for the year, and another senator patiently waiting to claim my office, it was time to go. After 18 years of service to the Missouri Legislature – eight as a member of the House of Representatives, two as a staffer and another eight in the Senate – the moment I had long known was coming had finally arrived.

Missouri’s term limits law prevented me from seeking reelection. That’s OK. I had accomplished all I wanted in terms of passing bills. I’ll miss helping constituents, but I’m ready for someone else to serve the 33rd Senatorial District. At 73 years of age, I’m starting to slow down a bit, and the late-night filibusters in the Senate chamber are not nearly as invigorating as they once were.

A number of people have asked me if I had any final thoughts about my time in the General Assembly. I suppose they expect me to offer some words of wisdom. I’m afraid I may disappoint them. Instead of passing judgement on the institutions of government, I can only say that I’m grateful. As I reflect on these past 20 years, I am simply awed by how blessed I’ve been. Truthfully, the opportunity to serve in the Legislature is just one of many blessings I’ve received in my life. I’ve often said that when you’re born in America, are raised by people who love you, and you learn to love God, then you have a huge jump on the world. God has blessed you. Well, I have truly been blessed.

It has been a privilege to serve in the Missouri Senate, and the House of Representatives before that. I have come to know so many wonderful people who truly care about the citizens of this state. I will always appreciate all the individuals who serve the Senate behind the scenes – the maintenance workers, the folks who research and prepare legislation, the tireless staff of the Senate secretary’s office who stay late after we finish our deliberations, the IT people who keep the computers running and allow the public access to our work, and so many others. We could not function without these people, and yet they rarely receive thanks for what they do.

I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically mention a few individuals who have helped me beyond measure. I will be forever indebted to Doris Broeker, my chief of staff. Doris handled all of the details of my legislative work and made sure I was prepared as important issues came before the Senate. And, truthfully, whenever I successfully intervened to help a resident of my district with an issue relating to Missouri government, it was probably Doris who did most of the heavy lifting. Joan Branson, the other member of my Capitol staff, has also been invaluable. Joan’s voice was the first thing constituents heard when they called my office and she always started these encounters on the right foot. Ever cheerful and helpful, Joan kept the wheels of my office turning, and took care of the many details that come with representing nearly 180,000 residents of eight counties.

Likewise, I would like to express my appreciation to Dan Engemann, who has helped my office with policy issues and constituent concerns. Dan has been selected to serve as chief of staff for my replacement in the Senate. I know Dan will do a great job in his new role, and I’m confident the people of the district will come to rely on him as much as I have. I also owe my thanks to Richard Eakin, who manned the 33rd District office in West Plains. Richard has been a great help, attending local functions and meeting with constituents while I was away in Jefferson City. Finally, I’d like to thank Dee Ellen Maher, who was my legislative assistant while I was in the House of Representatives. I couldn’t have made it through those eight years without her.

It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve alongside so many dedicated public servants. I am particularly thankful for the opportunity to know and work with some of Missouri’s greatest statesmen and stateswomen. I know politicians get a bad rap, and many cynics assume elected officials are only out for themselves. Well, I know better. I’ve watched as some of our state’s best and brightest citizen-legislators have taken time away from their livelihoods and lives to try to make things better for the people of Missouri. They don’t often get the credit they deserve, but I’m glad to recognize my fellow lawmakers and thank them for their service.

On Jan. 6, Karla Eslinger will be sworn in as the 33rd District’s new senator. I couldn’t be more pleased that the voters selected her. I admire Sen.-elect Eslinger and I’m confident she’ll do a great job. I hope you all welcome her, and pray for her as she begins her service.

It has been my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. You are the best! I will forever be humbled by the confidence you have placed in me and I hope, on balance, you feel I’ve represented you well. Thank you for your support throughout the years. I am truly grateful.