While Michigan will lose a great senator, Alpena will lose its number one fan and supporter next year when Sen. Carl Levin retires from office.
Reaction to Levin's announcement Thursday that he would not seek re-election was swift, as politicians from both parties praised his service and commitment to the state.
Over the years I have been fortunate to work in newspaper offices that afforded me the opportunity to sit with and interview some of the greatest political minds in our lifetime. In terms of magnitude, audience and wisdom, I would have to say Levin ranks right there with former U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia as one of my two favorites.
Byrd would overwhelm a room with his aura upon entering. Over the years I witnessed many a newsroom come to a complete halt when Sen. Byrd entered. He was a political rock star.
Levin's aura is different, yet equally impactful. More soft-spoken, when Levin begins addressing a question, it always is mesmerizing. Levin knows his material inside and out, and on passionate matters, such as defense, he always is especially articulate and enlightening.
All of Michigan has benefited by Levin's leadership role in Congress, yet I believe he always held a soft spot for Alpena and Northeast Michigan. Naturally someone in his role can't have favorites, but from improvements to the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center to development of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Levin has led the charge in personally spearheading the projects through the slippery slopes of D.C.
He always was there for both and a grateful community watched, observed what he was doing, and never forgot. His approval rating locally over the years I would dare say is probably the highest of any federal politician who passed through these parts. Given the paralysis of Washington these past several years, that is particularly impressive.
The mark of a good man, I believe, is when both his proponents and opponents have nothing but praise to say about him. To me, is speaks volumes as to what that man was made of, his character and the way he handled his business professionally.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said this of Levin - for more than 30 years he was a "thoughtful, compassionate voice in Washington. He effectively brought the needs and concerns of Michiganders to the halls of the Capitol."
Indeed he did.
As the editor and publisher of a conservative community newspaper in Northeast Michigan, when it came to endorsements and support, never once did we even consider not backing Levin's re-election efforts.
Sometimes I hate political sterotypes and labels. At times I detest conservative and liberal, wanting instead to develop and strive for compassionate or level-headed.
I always have found Levin to be fair, honorable and a man of integrity.
Ultimately, that is all I ask of a politician.
Personally, I was saddened to learn of Levin's decision, as I will miss our visits.
Yet I wish him well. Carl Levin has been a good friend of Alpena. For that, our entire community is grateful.