ROANOKE, Va. – This week marks the end of an era in Virginia politics as longtime Congressman Bob Goodlatte leaves office. The Republican helped shape policy affecting Virginia and the nation for 26 years.
At age 66, he’s stepping down from his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which he’s held since first being elected in 1992. He’s represented Virginia’s 6th District, which covers areas from the Roanoke to Shenandoah valleys.
Republican Ben Cline, who served as Goodlatte’s chief of staff at one time, will replace his mentor when he’s sworn-in Thursday.
Goodlatte spoke to 10 News recently in Roanoke about how he'll remember his time in office. He said he’s ready for his last day.
“It's been a tremendous honor to represent the people of the 6th Congressional District,” he said. “I never thought that I would have the honor to do that.”
He’s been praised as a detail-oriented workhorse. In 1977, he got a law degree from Washington and Lee. Then, helped other Republicans get elected.
He won the 6th District in 1992 and never relinquished his chair, winning 13 total elections, many of them handily and seven of which he won while running unopposed.
“I will also miss the great team that I put together,” he said.
His campaign signs stayed the same over all these years. Those who’ve worked with him said his relentless focus on policy is another constant.
He’s been involved in national debates on immigration, criminal justice, government surveillance and internet use, and he’s been the chair of the agriculture and judiciary committees.
At times, his decisions have been controversial and have drawn criticism.
Fellow congressmen and women said he’s been skillful in working with members of other parties, including working on security after 9/11 attacks.
“It's something that requires eternal vigilance. The people who continue on after I leave will have to make sure that the effort continues,” he said.
In Roanoke, he helped get money approved for flood control. At the national level, he said he’s proud of legislation signed last month on criminal justice reform and music copyright laws, two bills into which he’s put years of work. He said he'll miss helping people with problems.
He doesn’t like that the country’s debt is nearing $22 trillion. He would have liked to see more balanced budgets during his time in Washington.
“That is a staggering amount of money,” he said. “At some point in time, when the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury is called into question, it could mean an economic disaster like we've never seen.”
He believes the next wave of representatives and senators need to find situations to put aside their differences and cooperate – including in the discussions to end the current government shutdown.
“To solve problems, we've got to have people sit down and work together and that's exactly what has to happen here in the next few days or weeks to make sure that our government gets funded,” he said.
WSLS 10 News political analyst Dr. Ed Lynch said Goodlatte “is best remembered as someone who meant well, but who clung to the possibility of bipartisan cooperation long after that possibility ceased to be realistic.”
Lynch believes Goodlatte has been reliable, hardworking and a “consistent fighter for conservative Republican principles.”
“He had a talent for explaining his votes, and for explaining the legislative process, that was second to none in my experience,” Lynch said.
Cline said he’s looking forward to continuing Goodlatte’s legacy.
“He was my first boss and taught me a lot about the importance of constituent service and listening to the voters,” Cline said.
Goodlatte said he wants to spend more time with his family in retirement.