When the U.S. Senate convenes in 2015, the face of not only West Virginia's political landscape, but that of the entire nation will have changed.
With U.S. Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., announcing Friday his decision not to seek re-election, American politics will be without a Rockefeller for the first time in more than four decades, essentially closing the history books on a political dynasty that began before the midpoint of the last century.
Rockefeller, the great-grandson of philanthropist and Standard Oil Co. tycoon John Davison Rockefeller, has served this state ably and with a dedication virtually unrivaled in today's politics since first being elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1966.
After serving as the West Virginia Secretary of State for two terms, Rockefeller became governor in 1977. He served two terms in that position before replacing fellow Democrat Jennings Randolph in the U.S. Senate in 1985.
As governor, Rockefeller helped guide the Mountain State through the extremely difficult economic times of the early 1980s. During his second term in the governor's mansion, West Virginia's mining industry took a significant downturn as the state's unemployment rate hovered just below 20 percent.
Rockefeller continued to go to the well for West Virginia during his year's in the U.S. Senate, serving on the influential Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Veteran's Affairs and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Many of these committees Rockefeller chaired at various times.
Rockefeller has been a strong supporter of health care legislation and has helped to funnel countless dollars to the Mountain State for road and other infrastructure projects.
Although Rockefeller's presence in the U.S. Senate will be deeply missed, this does open the proverbial political door for someone to come in with a fresh take on big government.
Throughout the nation, old-guard politicians are passing the torch on to a new generation that will shape our country and carry it into the future. It is imperative that Rockefeller's successor be as mindful and vigilant about ushering in that future for the Mountain State.
Rockefeller deserves much praise for his lifetime of service to West Virginia. The state certainly is far better off thanks to his years of service. Although the work begins anew, Rockefeller's contributions to West Virginia will be felt for many years to come.