‘Until we meet again’: Kansas representatives say goodbye as they prepare to exit Legislature

By: - May 1, 2022 9:30 am

Rep. Ron Highland is one of a handful of legislators to formally announce their retirement from the Legislature. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — After a decade in the Kansas Legislature, Rep. Ron Highland announced he would not seek reelection for his term that expires in January.

Highland, 75, is among several state representatives stepping back after at least 10 years in the Statehouse. The Wamego Republican told colleagues on Monday this session would be his last representing the 51st District.

“It’s been a very humbling experience to realize that the majority from your district have voted you into office,” Highland said. “They trust you, support you and expect you to do what’s right for the district and the state of Kansas.”

Highland took office in January 2013, representing the district that runs along U.S. Highway 24 from Wamego to eastern Manhattan and Wabaunsee County. This year, he served as chairman of the House Water Committee in addition to working on the Taxation and Commerce, Labor and Economic Development committees.

A Vietnam War veteran, Highland was recently inducted into the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame. He spent his lifelong career in agriculture as a veterinarian, working predominantly with large animals.

He also taught at his alma mater, Kansas State University, while earning his Ph.D. in veterinary pharmacology.

“You learn so much in so many different areas. It’s a great experience,” Highland said in his farewell speech on the House floor. “I’m not going to say goodbye. I’m just going to say until we meet again.”

Rep. Richard Proehl, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, will step back after 17 years at the Statehouse. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Rep. Richard Proehl also announced he would not seek another term representing the 7th District. The Parsons Republican is in his 17th year at the Statehouse.

Proehl took office in 2005 to complete the term of then-Rep. Jeff Jack, who left his post after he was appointed to be a district judge in Labette. Proehl was elected the following year.

In his farewell address Thursday, Proehl kept it short and sweet.

“You stand up to be recognized, you sit down to be appreciated,” Proehl said. “With that Mr. speaker, I close.”

Proehl served on several committees, including the taxation and appropriation panels, but was best known as chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Representatives from both sides of the aisle and government agencies wished Proehl well via social media.

“I appreciate his leadership and gracious demeanor as House Transportation Chair and co-chair of 2018 Legislative Transportation task force,” said Kansas transportation secretary Julie Lorenz via Twitter.

“A dear man who really knows his stuff when it comes to taxes,” said Rep. Stephanie Clayton, “and a delightful sense of humor that I greatly enjoy.”

Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat, announced in March she would not seek reelection after 26 years in the Legislature. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Across the aisle, Rep. Annie Kuether, the longest-serving member of the Shawnee County delegation, told colleagues in March she would no seek reelection after 26 years in office. Kuether’s career spanned six Kansas governors, starting with Republican Gov. Bill Graves.

Kuether is the ranking minority member of the Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee. She also serves on the Judiciary and Corrections and Juvenile Justice committee, in addition to several joint and special committees.

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.