Richardson: Honoring Sen. Luke Kenley and his lifetime of achievements

State Rep. Kathy Richardson and former State Sen. Luke Kenley at the celebration of Kenley’s career at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Thursday. (Photos provided)

Indiana State Representative

On Thursday night in the Farm Bureau building at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, there was a celebration of State Sen. Luke Kenley and his years of service to the State of Indiana. Around 350 of Luke’s Statehouse colleagues, family and friends were present for the program. It was an evening full of wonderful tributes, gifts, reminiscing and even some poking fun, OK a lot of poking fun.

The evening began just like a session in the Senate. State Sen. Brandt Hershman, Senate majority floor leader, made the two-minute call to take our seats. Former Chief Justice Brent Dickson led the opening prayer and I led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mike McDaniel and his committee had planned a great program entitled, “A Tribute to Senator Kenley.” After dinner, Luke was asked to sit on the stage in a rocking chair, which was set up just for him.

Gov. Eric Holcomb was the first to get the program started. He thanked Luke for his service and shared how they had worked together not only this year, but in years past when Holcomb served on former Gov. Mitch Daniels staff. He ended his presentation giving Luke a Sagamore of the Wabash and thanked him for being a great partner.

Congresswoman Susan Brooks presents former State Sen. Luke Kenley with a copy of her remarks on Kenley she submitted to the Congressional Record.

Next up was Congresswoman Susan Brooks and she presented Luke with a copy of the entry she had presented on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives – entering him and all of his accomplishments into the Congressional Record. She stated that the Congressional Record is like a history book for the United States. She also shared that she had worn red in support of Miami of Ohio where she was a graduate as well as Senator Kenley.

In addition to those making personal presentations, letters were sent and read to Luke from Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and his wife, Cheryl.

Other presenters included Chief Justice Loretta Rush, House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane and former political reporter Jim Shella.

Former House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer, who had worked on crafting several state budgets throughout the years with Luke, shared some of their experiences together. Speaker Bauer, who has a great sense of humor, shared his thoughts in jest that after working so hard on the roads bill this past session that all the future toll roads should have Luke Kenley’s name on them. He also commended Howard Kenley, Luke’s dad, for raising such a fine man.

In addition to the many wonderful comments made, there were many who came bearing gifts for him in honor of his service. Jim Morris and Rick Fuson from the Indiana Pacers presented Luke with an authentic jersey with “Kenley” on the back and the number 25 representing his 25 years of service at the Indiana Statehouse.

Lloyd Wright, president and CEO of WFYI Public Media, thanked Luke for his support of public media and presented him with a picture of “Big Bird,” a known icon of PBS.

Mark Miles, representing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, presented Luke with a replica of the pagoda that is made from a brick from the track. This was only the third one that has ever been given as a gift from the Speedway.

CEO of the Indianapolis Indians Bruce Schumacher presented Luke with an Indians’ baseball jersey and Larry Hall, vice president of the Colts, presented him with a Colts football. John Hammond, co-chair of Ice Miller’s Public Affairs Group, presented Luke and his wife, Sally, with a painting titled, “American Storytellers,” for his Texas ranch, which represented the many stories Luke has heard over the years from the lobby community about how important their issues were and why Luke needed to help fund them.

Luke was also presented with a Luke Kenley bobble head. It was a replica from a picture of Luke on a horse at the ranch in Texas. Only a few were made and they will go to his six grandchildren.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, who worked with Luke for 22 years, said he wasn’t happy about Luke leaving the Senate but supported his decision that it was the right time for him. He stated there had been no one better at working through a budget and he was happy to just let Luke do his job. Senator Long presented him with a crystal eagle that is the traditional gift given when a senator leaves the Statehouse.

Sally, Luke’s wife of 50 years, was also given a carved bowl in the shape of the State of Indiana that was made at the Indiana State Fair’s Pioneer Village.

Luke, who had the last words of the evening, first thanked Sally for being his anchor for over 50 years and his three children, including Betsy, Bill and David, and their spouses that were present for the evening.

He highlighted three programs that he did to support the youth and get them engaged in civics and government. One is the Page Program where students come and spend a day at the Statehouse, the second being his leadership conference where he invited class presidents from the schools in his district to the Statehouse for a two-day conference and third, he always hosted the Senate interns at his house every year.

Luke gave credit to Dick Dellinger for encouraging him to run when he was 47 years old. After serving a few months, Luke came home and told Sally, “It is a mess down there at the Statehouse.” She told him, “You have been entrusted by friends and neighbors by being elected to serve and that not many people get this opportunity in their lifetime,” and he should do what he is supposed to do. And that, he has done for 25 years. He has served not only Senate District 20 and his home of Noblesville, but the whole state.

That is one of the hardest things about being in a leadership position at the Statehouse, you must look beyond your boundaries and look at the entire state. And you can’t just think about tomorrow or next year – you have to be looking down the road 20 years and longer.

Lots of words and phrases were used over and over Thursday evening and they all sum up the legacy of Senator Luke Kenley, including fair, made a difference, left the State of Indiana in a better place, made sometimes painful choices, creative thinker, good partner, “No, we aren’t doing that,” wise, knowledgeable, problem solver, listened but then said, “No,” lively debates, must earn it and hard worker.

And lastly, the words “thank you” were mentioned many times by many people. Luke has served this community in so many ways from his time with Kenley’s Grocery Store, Noblesville City Court, Boys and Girls Club and the Methodist Church. And he has served the state with his dedication to making Indiana a better place. I have enjoyed sharing this community with you over the past 25 years, Luke. I am sure you will agree it has gone by quickly. Enjoy your retirement, my friend!