Hal Rogers now Kentucky’s longest-serving member of Congress

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers reached a milestone Thursday in becoming Kentucky’s longest-serving member of Congress, saying he has work to do and is keeping his eye toward the future.

First elected in 1980 from the 5th District, Rogers surpassed the late U.S. Rep. William Natcher for the longevity record. Rogers reached 14,852 days in office on Thursday, passing his former Democratic colleague from the state’s 2nd District, the congressman’s office said, citing the U.S. House historian.

Rogers, 83, who once held the powerful post of House Appropriations Committee chairman and now serves as ranking Republican of a key subcommittee, referred to himself as “just a country boy from rural Wayne County” during a statehouse ceremony Thursday marking the milestone.

Reflecting on his career, Rogers talked about sticking to his motto — “plan your work, work your plan” — as a key to his staying power and then looked to the future.

“If you stay with it, you’ll make it happen,” he said. “But you’ve got to stay with it for a good while. In my case, 40 years is not enough. I’ve got more to do. And more questions to ask. More promises to keep. More people in need.”

Rogers, who represents one of the nation’s poorest congressional districts, has already announced plans to run for a 22nd term next year.

He was praised for his efforts to uplift his Appalachian district’s economy amid the decline of coal-mining jobs, overcome the state’s opioid addiction woes, expand rural broadband, steer money for flood-control projects and improve his region’s transportation system.

Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne, a Republican, said Rogers was “among the first to recognize the opioid crisis,” and praised his efforts in support of drug-abuse treatment and prevention programs. Democratic state Sen. Robin Webb said Rogers has influenced generations of Kentuckians and said “everybody wants to be like him” for his advocacy for constituents.

Republican state Senate President Robert Stivers spoke of Rogers’ qualities that endeared him to constituents through decades of elections, even as his district’s boundaries shifted.

“When Congressman Rogers runs, nobody calls him Congressman Rogers,” Stivers said. “What do they call him? They call him Hal. ... That says more than anything about how you’re perceived in your district.”