Tribute to Russ Sullivanby Former Senator Max Baucus
Posted on 2013-01-24
BAUCUS. Mr. President, Benjamin Franklin once said:
The noblest question in the world is, ``What good may I do
I rise today to honor the service of Russ Sullivan, who was a
distinguished member of my staff for more than a decade until his
departure earlier this month.
Most of us come to the Senate because it is a place where, despite the many challenges, there remains a capacity to do great good. And too often people forget that. But Russ Sullivan never did. Every day he came to work in the Senate and for the Finance Committee, Russ led by asking our staff how can we do good here? And how can we make this country and the world a better place? Russ's leadership proves that by working to do good and working together to find solutions we can get things done.
Russ is well known here on Capitol Hill. He has earned the respect and admiration of Senators and staff on both sides of the aisle.
Russ's political career started early. He was twice elected Student Body President--once at McClellan High School and again at Baylor University. He had his sights set on a life of public service in Washington. In 1995, he became tax counsel and Legislative Director to Senator Bob Graham. In 1999, he moved to the Finance Committee staff to serve as Chief Tax Counsel to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Russ stayed on at the committee when I became chairman in 2001. Through his proven abilities, he was promoted to the staff director of my team in 2004.
During the past 8 years, Russ led the Finance Committee staff to pass major bills that give real help to families across the country. We cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses. We defended Social Security from privatization. We opened new markets to U.S. exports to create more jobs here at home. We passed health reform to bring top-notch, affordable care to millions of Americans. And we are currently at work on a plan to modernize the U.S. tax code to reinvigorate the economy and create jobs.
True to his style, Russ did all this without a hint of partisanship. He maintained a laser-like focus on solutions. That focus made the Finance Committee more productive, and it strengthened the bills we passed.
I know there are many people here--including my colleagues in the Senate--who share my deep respect for Russ. Senator Reid once called Russ ``instrumental'' and a ``problem-solver.'' Former Senator Blanche Lincoln once said, ``We could not do our job without him,'' and boy, is she right. Russ has earned the trust of his colleagues and the admiration of his staff.
People who meet with Russ are often surprised to see his desk tucked between filing cabinets and boxes right alongside interns, assistants and law clerks. Russ is a true team player.
It would be impossible to honor Russ without recognizing his public service off of Capitol Hill. In his life outside the Senate, Russ truly embodies the question of ``What good may I do?'' For many years, he has been a mentor to young people, making a difference in hundreds of lives.
Several years ago, Russ became a foster parent and legal guardian to help teenage boys secure a better future. Since then, he has been a legal or designated guardian for 18 teenage boys. Thirteen are currently in college, and several more have already earned degrees. One of Russ's sons, Abu Kamara, spoke to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette when it profiled Russ in 2010. Abu said, ``[Russ] kept telling me, keep your head up.' He got people to tutor me because my grades weren't good. He kept me focused and made sure I was doing the right thing. He's the reason I graduated from high school.'' Abu is the first person from his family to go to college. And there are several other young men who could tell you similar stories.
Last summer, Russ lost one of his sons in a tragic incident. AJ Hassan, who was a student at the University of West Virginia, was assaulted one night and suffered a brain injury. Russ rushed to be at AJ's side, but AJ soon slipped into a coma.
Washington was in the midst of a contentious deficit reduction debate. Somehow, Russ spent months juggling work, AJ's medical condition, and the needs of his other boys. I will never know where he found the time and energy to have all these bases covered so well. But AJ's condition wavered, and there were complications. AJ passed away in July.
There was an outpouring of support for Russ and his family. Russ's friends and colleagues wanted to show him the same kind of caring and support he always shows others.
Russ continues to mentor and help young people, and he is still changing lives. He helped found the Capital Area REACH program, an organization dedicated to helping young people find success.
REACH connects students with job training, internships, tutors and scholarships. Some of these kids come from tough backgrounds. But REACH helps them find a pathway toward a stable and successful life.
In the spirit of extending the same opportunities he had early in his career, Russ started a program for interns, law clerks and fellows to serve on the Finance Committee. It now has hundreds of alumni who got their first shot at work in Congress thanks to Russ.
That includes a large number of people who have moved up the ladder on my staff. Russ fostered a culture where hard work gets the recognition it deserves.
Like any great staffer, Russ would not leave me without an ace replacement to take on his role. We have a deep bench on the Finance Committee, and I am thrilled to have Amber Cottle as my new Staff Director. She has been on my staff for 6 years, most recently as my Chief Trade Counsel. Amber is a pro. She is whip-smart. And she is a master negotiator.
Russ leaves some big shoes to fill. But Amber is more than capable and, as she likes to say, her shoes are much more stylish. I know without a doubt that she will do a great job.
There is one more thing I would like to say about Russ. Rule number one in my office is to remember the people we serve. They are hard- working people back in Montana and around the country, and it is our job to help them out. Russ never forgot that. A southern boy, Russ adopted Montana as his home State. He thinks of the people of Montana as his neighbors. And Russ always rolled up his sleeves and got results. I truly appreciate all he has done.
I know I am not alone in saying: thank you, Russ, for all your service all your hard work over the years. You did good, Russ.