Sen. Roberts' Chief of Staff steps down after 18 years

Published: May. 20, 2020 at 1:29 PM CDT
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Senator Roberts announced that his Chief of Staff will be stepping down after almost 18 years of service.

Jackie Cottrell will step down as Senator Roberts’ Chief of Staff at the end of June.

Cottrell is one of two Chiefs of Staff to date in Roberts’ almost 40 years of service to Kansans.

“Jackie is a strategic thinker and brilliant communicator who has helped me navigate some of the toughest legislative and political battles I have faced in the House and the Senate,” says Roberts. “I often describe her as my right and left arm. Whether pressing for the creation of the National Bio and Agro-Defense facility, building the Eisenhower Memorial or passing multiple farm bills, I turned to Jackie to lead my team through long and difficult challenges.

“She provided wise counsel during three Senate races, was never afraid to give me tough advice and managed more than 30 people in Kansas and Washington with grace and care. She has been a leader among her peers in the Senate. Staff and Kansans alike have depended on her and will miss her positive ‘can do’ attitude. Simply put, Jackie made things happen. I will forever appreciate her service to me and to the people of Kansas. This office will not be the same without her.”

Cottrell joined Roberts’ team in 1995 and served as Press Secretary when he became Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Cottrell moved to Topeka in 1996 to manage Roberts’ communication for a successful run for the U.S. Senate. She later left to manage communications for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. She returned to Roberts’ team as Chief of Staff in 2003.

“When I accepted the job with then-Congressman Pat Roberts 25 years ago, I could never have imagined the doors he would have opened for me,” says Cottrell. “He trusted me to make decisions. He empowered me to aim high and achieve results. He gave me a seat at the table early on when women were still often sitting on the back benches on Capitol Hill. There’s no way to express my gratitude for the public service career I’ve had or the history I have been able to witness. It’s been a privilege to lead a team of talented and dedicated staff. Kansas and the country are losing a truly great statesman upon Pat Roberts’ retirement. I am honored to have been a part of his team.”

Roberts has named his new Chief of Staff as Chad Tenpenny, long-time State Director and Counsel. Tenpenny, based in Roberts’ Overland Park office, has served since 2001.

“Chad has traveled miles and miles with me along Kansas’ back roads and to all 105 counties many times,” says Roberts. “He understands what the state needs and how to get the job done. He has represented me all across Kansas and has strong relationships with state, community and business leaders. He grew up working on the family farm in Williamstown so his roots in the agriculture community are deep. During this pandemic, Chad has been my lead staffer working with Kansas businesses to solve problems and find solutions. There is no better person than Chad Tenpenny to lead the staff and represent me as we sprint to the finish line.”

“Senator Roberts has a dedication to the people of Kansas that is unmatched,” says Tenpenny. “I’ve watched him comfort people who have just lost their homes in fires and tornadoes. I have watched him fight to ensure those in need have food assistance, especially school kids. I have watched him work to strengthen our military bases, including returning the Big Red 1 to Kansas. I am fortunate to be able to represent a senior leader whose voice in Washington makes a difference for us in Kansas every day. He has a lot left to do in this last year, and I am honored to lead our team in that effort.”

Tenpenny lives in Leawood with his family and succeeds Cottrell and Leroy Towns who served as Roberts’ first Chief from 1980-2002.