Senate Minority Leader John J. Rizzo was honored as the Missouri Times Statesman of the Year. Rizzo has held the position of Minority Leader since 2020 and has been in the Senate since 2016.
The event included several guests from both sides of the aisle, as well as many different branches of the Missouri government from past and present. The event also included an auction put on by the Women Legislators of Missouri to promote their Scholarship Fund that helps send young women to college.
Rizzo was honored by many other prominent statesmen and legislators during the evening. Former State Senator Ryan McKenna introduced the event’s guests for the evening. The on stage guests included President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, former State Senator Victor Callahan, former Senator Jacob Hummel and former Governor Jay Nixon.
Rowden gave a speech in which he praised Rizzo for his friendship and ability to work across the aisle to compromise with his fellow legislators. Rowden noted that Senate will not be the same when Rizzo leaves.
“I will say definitively, unequivocally, even if his district is represented by a Republican in 2025 the Senate is going to be worse off undoubtedly when John Rizzo is gone. There is no doubt about that,” Rowden said.
Next, two former State Senators spoke about Rizzo as well.
Victor Callahan, who was also a Senate Minority Leader from Jackson County, shared personal stories about his and Rizzo’s friendship and ultimately applauded Rizzo for his trustworthiness.
“In the Senate the currency of the realm is trust and trust is developed by people who keep their word, who do what they say they’re going to do and you are that person. You have that amazing gift,” Callahan said.
Similarly, Jacob Hummel shared memories of his time with Rizzo in the Senate and commend Rizzo for his trustworthiness as well. Hummel called Rizzo a “true statesman”, something that he said is “ exceedingly rare in this world and exceedingly rare in government”.
Former Governor Nixon spoke next and talked about his experiences with Rizzo, including an anecdote in which Rizzo stopped a large company from moving out of Kansas City. Nixon talked in depth not only about Rizzo’s achievements as a legislator, but also his character.
“This is a guy who has never forgotten, he never forgot who he was, where he is from or sent him. And what an appropriate honor for a true statesman,” Nixon said.
Lastly Rizzo stood up and gave his own speech to the guests on stage and the audience. He gave thanks to his fellow legislators, including Rowden. Rizzo aso echoed Rowdens earlier sentiments about friendships.
“Quite honestly, the friendship that was most unexpected to me, is my friendship with Caleb. And that has just been the last two or three years and I think I am going to value that more than he realizes now,” Rizzo said.
He also thanked the Democratic Caucus as well as his longtime legislative assistant and other supporters from past and present. . Finally, Rizzo reflected on his time in the Senate.
“There is something special about being in the Senate and there is something special about, even on the opposite side, of sharing a bond and a time that you can never get back,” Rizzo told the crowd.