Senate Majority Leader Richard “Dick” L. Saslaw plans to retire at the end of his term in January.
“Everybody’s got a use-buy or sell-by date stamp somewhere on them. And for mine, for me, it’s next January 10 at noon. By then, I will have been in the General Assembly 48 years, including 44 here in the Senate,” said the Democrat who represents Fairfax when he announced his decision.
“Sooner or later, you gotta realize that you’re gonna have to move on. But it’s been a very interesting and a great 48 years, and you all are amongst the many people who’ve helped make it that way,” Saslaw, 83, said during his Senate floor speech before his fellow lawmakers.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here over the last 40 some years. You know, we’ve created an environment for people to succeed in. Virginia has been ranked recently as one of the top states to do business in. One of the other things I’m proud of, we’ve improved the life of, you know, people and groups who’ve been marginalized over the years, various minorities. Things have gotten a lot better. We got a ways to go, but there’s been a vast improvement,” Saslaw said.
Saslaw’s tenure makes him the longest serving senator in Virginia’s legislature. He joined the Virginia Senate in 1980, after four years in the Virginia House of Delegates. He’s served under 13 governors.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised Saslaw for his work.
Sen. Janet D. Howell, a Democrat who represents Fairfax and Arlington counties, said the Senate will miss Saslaw.
“Dick is loyal. He’s loyal to a fault,” Howell said. “If Dick considers you a friend, he will never ever publicly criticize you, put you down, or in any way, show his displeasure. He will talk to you quietly and try and persuade you, but he maintains everybody’s dignity all the time. He also has great integrity, and for those of us here, I think we all know how important that is. You need to know who you can trust and who you can’t, and Dick is person you can trust.”
Sen. George L. Barker, a Democrat whose constituency is in Fairfax and Prince William counties, as well as part of Alexandria, said the hallmark of Saslaw’s career has been his “ability to work with everybody on different issues and to work with both sides of the aisle.”
Sen. Barbara Favola praised Saslaw’s support of women who are lawmakers. The Democrat who represents Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties said that from Saslaw she learned how to frame an argument and to explain things from the point of view of how an issue would affect people.
“I have learned so much. You have been a mentor to so many of us that, you know what, your views and your thoughts are going to influence us for years to come. And you have made an indelibly good mark on the commonwealth. Thank you for your service,” Favola said.
Jill Holtzman Vogel, a Republican representing Fauquier County, described Saslaw as joyful, funny, and brutally honest.
“I will be sad for this institution. I do not know how it will go on without him,” she said. “I just wanted to add my voice to all of those who’ve spoken a few words, and say we all love you dearly Dick Saslaw.”
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