State Senator Brooks McCabe reflects on time in Legislature
As the 2014 session winds down, so does Sen. Brooks McCabe's career in the Legislature.
McCabe, a Kanawha County Democrat first elected in 1998, announced last year he wouldn't seek re-election, choosing instead to focus on his family and other interests.
"From my perspective, there are other things I want to get done," McCabe said. "I think 16 years is enough for me. I've always been a little concerned about staying too long. By that I mean getting addicted to the process and not wanting to give it up. I've never been afraid of losing an election, so I was always able to do the kinds of projects and initiatives I wanted to do.
"But after 16 years, I'm ready to do other things. and really that's working in my business in commercial real estate. I want to write a book on the economic history of Charleston, I have a grandson I want to spend time with. I'm looking forward to the next chapter. I'm not really looking back at all."
McCabe, 65, said he's focused on the next chapter of his life and won't really miss working in the Legislature. But, he said, he looks forward to bridging the divide between lawmakers and business community and helping both parties understand one another just a little bit better.
"What I want to do is build on what I learned in the Senate," McCabe said. "I'm not going away. I'm going to stay involved in helping with the issues and trying to articulate those. I'll be using what I've learned in other ways."
Over the past 16 years, McCabe has been involved in several movements to reform taxes and what he calls other structural problems in state government. He was instrumental in finding a solution for the state's Other Post-Employment Benefits liability and the privatization of workers compensation.
"I like the heat of the battle," he said. I've particularly enjoyed dealing with challenging structural problems in state government, whether it be workers compensation, PEIA, the medical malpractice insurance reform, tax reform-reducing the corporate net income tax and eliminating the franchise tax. Those were issues I was in the middle of. Those challenges really caught my attention."
McCabe said he's enjoyed the challenges the Legislature has presented, but he knows the next phase will come with its own. He's confident his experiences as a lawmaker will help him as he writes his book exploring the city's economic history.
"Moving forward, like writing the economic history of Charleston, really interests me," he said. "Much of what I've learned here I will apply to understanding the dynamics of how the city of Charleston evolved over time, who made it happen, why it happened. I think in some ways I've got a unique perspective that will allow me to present a history that hasn't been written before, and that's exciting to me."
Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has worked with McCabe his entire legislative career. He applauded McCabe for his work ethic and said he will be missed in the halls of the Capitol.
"He is an extremely capable, hardworking and dedicated legislator who has helped shepherd through a lot of major legislation we have accomplished over the past decade and a half," Kessler said. "He will be missed. He's a tireless worker. His heart is in the right place, and I've enjoyed our time together both as senators and as a friend as well."
McCabe said he has always tried to work with all of his colleagues — not just Democrats — and advised his successor to do the same.
"The Senate is a marvelous place to do good work," he said. "There is a lot to accomplish here. You have 34 people who come from very different backgrounds with very different views of the world. I think it's helpful to try to stand in the other senators' shoes and try to internalize what their constituents are asking of them as elected officials. Being from Kanawha County, it is very different. Sen. (Ron) Stollings' view of the world given he is from Boone County and represents some of the southern counties, his constituents look at the world differently than my constituents. So try to understand that dynamic.
"The legislators from North Central West Virginia have a different perspective. Certainly the ones from the Eastern Panhandle have a different perspective. Try to understand where they're coming from. What are their hot buttons, so to speak? Then with that, try to meld that together to create a consensus that will allow legislation to pass."
McCabe will still work through the Legislature's interim period. His successor will be elected in November.
Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-5149 or whitney.