Johnny Isakson is, in my opinion, the Howard Baker of our era. When he talks, people listen. He doesn’t talk loudly, and doesn’t talk often, but when he does, people always pay attention.
When Johnny retires from the United States Senate at the end of this month, he will leave behind a legacy of public service that will impact our state and country for years to come.
No matter the challenge, Johnny has always tackled every issue with clear-eyed determination. For the last five years, I have had the distinct honor of working alongside Johnny on a number of big issues affecting our state.
Plant Vogtle. Last year, a tax problem arose that would have threatened the progress for Plant Vogtle’s construction of units three and four, which will be the first nuclear reactors constructed in our country in 30 years. Johnny and I were able to address the problem and make sure the project stays on track to be completed in 2022.
Water Wars. In 2016, some members of Congress attempted to tip the scales against Georgia in the prolonged water dispute with Alabama and Florida, known as the “Tri-State Water Wars.” Johnny wouldn’t let that happen. Together, we stood up for Georgia and successfully thwarted this blatant federal legislative overreach.
SHEP. For decades, Georgia has tried to deepen the Port of Savannah by five feet to allow larger vessels to import and export goods through it. Johnny and I have worked with the Trump Administration to ensure this project is fully funded. It is now scheduled to be completed within the next two years.
In these and other instances, Johnny demonstrated what it means to be a true leader. He is firm in his convictions. He is respectful and honest with everyone he meets. Most importantly, he is a servant leader who never lost sight of the Georgians he represents.
As a veteran of the Georgia Air National Guard, Johnny has devoted himself to serving our country’s veterans every day. As chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Johnny turned that devotion into results.
When it became clear that the Veterans Administration was corrupt and inefficient, Johnny stepped up to make sure our veterans get the proper care they deserve. Thanks to him, we have made incredible progress toward fixing the VA.
We passed the VA MISSION Act, which gives veterans the ability to receive care from other sources when a VA hospital can’t or won’t provide that care effectively. We also passed bipartisan legislation that brings accountability to the VA. To date, 8,000 bureaucrats have been removed for not doing their jobs.
Johnny’s legacy in the United States Senate goes beyond any piece of legislation. He has taught all of us what it means to be a true statesman. He has brought dignity and respect to the Senate. He has made Georgia proud.
When he retires, Johnny will leave some big shoes to fill.
I will forever be grateful for the special friendship we developed throughout our time serving together in the United States Senate. As partners, we have been able to get real results for the people of Georgia.
As we enter a new year, as human beings, we should strive to be more like Johnny Isakson. If we do, we might just change Georgia and the country for the better.