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Mike L.
Republican UT

About Sen. Mike
  • Tribute to Spencer Stokes

    by Senator Mike Lee

    Posted on 2013-02-13

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    LEE. Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to a special class of people who are critical to the success of any U.S. Senator.

    During the recent Super Bowl game, one advertisement stood out among all the others. It was an advertisement based on a tribute taken from the great American Paul Harvey. It was entitled ``So God Made a Farmer.'' While I respect and admire farmers greatly, especially those I know from Utah, I am also certain that my colleagues in this Chamber will agree that when it comes to this institution, we can rightly change that statement ever so slightly to say, ``So God Made a Chief of Staff.'' My first chief of staff Spencer Stokes is returning to Utah. He is also returning to his family and to private life after 2 extraordinary years serving me in my office. I offer this in tribute to him and to all great chiefs of staff who labor here on Capitol Hill.

    When God looked down on the Senate, He realized that Senators alone could never keep things running and He said, I need a caretaker. So God made a chief of staff. He needed someone whose first thought in the morning and last thought at night would be about helping and serving a Senator; who would rise before dawn and organize the day, set the strategy, deal with the thick and thin of things, and steer the Senator away from bad meetings, bad policy, and bad people; someone who would work all day in and out of the office, would skip holidays, birthdays, and parties in pursuit of their service, who would stay past midnight waiting for a vote, and then be willing to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning to do it all again. So God made a chief of staff.

    He needed someone with thick skin, strong will, and at the same time a soft touch; strong enough to herd cats, yet gentle enough to comfort a grieving constituent or staff member; someone to call BS, tame the cantankerous bureaucracy of government, creatively solve problems big and small, and patiently listen to a hostile constituent with an axe to grind, and then tell that same constituent to come back again real soon--and mean it. So God made a chief of staff.

    God said, I need someone who can shape a staff, shine shoes, horse trade for furniture and office space, navigate a litany of ethics and rules requirements, and play the role of cruise director for countless constituent tours of Washington, DC; someone who will put in a full 40 hours by Tuesday at noon, and then put in another 72 hours on top of that by the end of the week. So God made a chief of staff.

    He had to have someone willing to sprint at double speed to stay ahead of a news story, and yet stop on a dime and pivot to help the real people of this country, no matter the consequences, no matter the circumstances, and regardless of what the press might be doing at the moment. He needed someone who, when the Senator becomes surrounded by ``yes'' men is willing to say humbly yet firmly and resolutely, ``No, sir.'' So God made a chief of staff.

    He said, I need somebody strong enough to catch arrows, take heat, endure withering criticism, and patiently listen to angry voices; somebody who is just fine with little prominence, praise, prestige, or perks, and who above all is fiercely loyal and forever has the Senator's back. So God made a chief of staff.

    I am fairly certain that when God looked down on a newly elected Senator from Utah during the final months of 2010, He knew that any old chief of staff wouldn't do. So, in my case, he actually chose a farmer--a turkey farmer, to be specific--from Bothwell, UT, named Spencer Stokes.

    Spencer has been a truly outstanding chief of staff. Doing the heavy lifting and providing the Herculean effort required to set up an office and build a staff from scratch proved to be Spencer's forte. It proved to be easy for him--or at least he made it look easy. He has an eye for detail like no other, though we occasionally need to remind him to ``zoom out.'' Straight chairs in the conference room, straight desks, and even straight ties all set the stage for straight talk about issues and policy and serving constituents.

    Spencer's love of Utah and its people is unequaled. As a first order of business, he set out to make my office something of an embassy for my State. So when you walk into our office, you are actually walking quite literally into Utah. From the art on the walls to the naming of the conference rooms, from our legendary JELL-O Wednesday to the staff reading of the smalltown Utah newspapers each week--everything leads to an experience in our office, and everything in our office is an experience of Utah.

    Spencer will long be remembered and appreciated for his handwritten notes, the best night tour in DC--a true story--bringing people together, confetti cannons, Utah fry sauce, lots of laughter, and a tireless commitment to make bad things good and good things even better.

    From Spencer's perspective, there are no small players in this great institution that is the Senate. He did not just preach that philosophy, he lived it every single day he was here. As a testament to that, we noted that when we asked him to provide a list of all the people he wanted invited to his farewell party, at the top of Spencer's list there were people who were not necessarily of high status. No, the top of the list was reserved for the people who really make this place go: cashiers and cooks, security personnel, guides and junior staff from nearly every corner of this building.

    I salute Spencer Stokes for his service to this Nation, to this institution, and to the people of Utah. I salute Spencer for his service to me and my family. I will forever be thankful that God made a chief of staff and especially thankful for a particularly extraordinary chief of staff, Spencer Stokes.


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