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Longtime Senate staffer honored

Us_senate_sealA former Bladen County who has served for more than 40 years in the United States Senate, was recognized this week in the Congressional Record. Ruby Paone, the sister of Bladen County Board of Education member Wilbur Smith, was recognized as she retires from her position as a US Senate staff member.

The following are the tributes that were read into the Congressional Record on Wednesday and Thursday.

Sen. Harry Reid: Mr. President, my friend the Republican leader talked about Ruby Paone. I have so much admiration and respect for her that it is hard to put it into words.

   In 1975, a young woman from North Carolina came to the U.S. Capitol. She was overwhelmed by everything, especially overwhelmed by this huge building she was going to work in. Ruby was excited for her first day of work at the Senate reception desk. But as she approached the Capitol, realizing what her new job was all about and the new city, she recalls: “Walking into this building, I was overwhelmed.”

   It is understandable that she felt that way. Many of us have and do feel the same way. The Capitol was a big change for Ruby. She was raised in the small town of Bladenboro, NC. She was a farm girl who spent her summers pulling peanuts–I didn’t know you pulled peanuts, but that is what they do–and harvesting tobacco. Ruby graduated from a small Presbyterian school, St. Andrews University. She is the only one in her family to leave their small town in North Carolina. But as Ruby got situated in her new job that day, another feeling set in. She said: “It just felt right to be here.”

   Now, 41 years, 2 months, and 9 days after she walked through the Capitol doors to start a new job, she is leaving. It is hard to imagine her not being here. To borrow from her own words, “it just feels right” to have Ruby here.

   Tomorrow is going to be her last day in the Senate. After more than four decades of service to the greatest deliberative body, Ruby is retiring to spend more time with her family. Her family’s gain is our loss. She is an institution, a fixture in the Senate. She is the longest serving woman who works with the doorkeepers. She has been here for 7 different Presidential administrations, 10 consecutive inaugurations, 16 different Sergeants at Arms, and 383 different Senators.

   She recognizes every one of those 383 Senators, and there is a reason that she does that. When she was first hired, we didn’t have the names and faces in these books we give to the pages and to new Senators. It wasn’t done that way then. She had to do it by memorizing their names and learning to recognize them when they came into the Capitol Rotunda and on the Senate floor. She would walk around and look for these Senators to get to know who they were. She grew close to many of these Senators, including Blanche Lincoln, Tom Carper, and Thad Cochran.

   I know Ruby. I know her family quite well. Her husband worked on the Senate floor for many years. He was instrumental to Majority Leader George Mitchell, Tom Daschle, and me. No one knows the rules of the Senate better than Marty Paone. He now works for President Obama in the Office of Legislative Affairs. He is a very special person, and I have such admiration for him.

   When their children were in high school, we would often talk about their children–how they played ball, how they did well, how they didn’t do so well the night before. That is what our conversations were about. We didn’t talk a lot of Senate business, unless we had to. I am sorry to say that we had to many times. Marty helped me so many times through very difficult situations on the floor.

   To say that I will miss Ruby is an understatement. I want be able to come to Ruby and say: How is Marty? How is he doing?

   Throughout my entire time in the Senate, she has always been here with a smile and a kind word. She is as much a part of this place as anyone who has ever served in the Senate. So I, along with the entire Senate–Senators, staff–wish her the best as she embarks on her well-deserved retirement.

   Ruby, thank you very much for your 41 years, 2 months, and 9 days of service.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: Mr. President, when Ruby Paone started her first day on the job in 1975, she was fresh out of college. Today, she has served here longer than any current Senator, save one–the senior Senator from Vermont.

   Ruby Paone, our Senate doorkeeper, has seen a lot in her 41 years in the Senate. She has watched legends, such as Baker and Mansfield, in action. She has acquired a lot of unique titles, such as card desk assistant and reception room attendant.

   We are really going to miss her when she retires later this month. I think Ruby is looking forward to kicking back in Myrtle Beach after more than four decades of Senate service. More importantly, I think she is anxious to spend some time with her family, away from work. Her son Tommy works at the Senate appointments desk. Her daughter Stephanie works in the Democratic Cloakroom. Her husband Marty used to as well. The two of them even met right here in the Senate.

   We are glad that Ruby will get to spend more quality time–that is, non-Senate time–with her family. And we are sure she would like to see a little more of her son Alexander as well.

   As Ruby knows, she will be leaving a family behind here too. She has served as surrogate mom of sorts to many doorkeepers, pages, and interns. They have looked up to her for wisdom and for advice. And it is no wonder. She has a lifetime of stories and experiences to share in a retirement that is richly deserved.

   We will miss Ruby Paone, but we wish her the very best, and above all, we thank her for her many years of service.

Sen. Patrick Leahy: Mr. President, I may be dating myself when I say this, but I remember when Ruby Paone started work here as a fresh graduate from St. Andrews University. That was April of 1975, just a few months after I began my own tenure here in the Senate, and for more than 41 years, she has served in the U.S. Senate as a public servant of the highest caliber. Ruby is a remarkable woman. Throughout her Senate experience, she has befriended future Presidents and legendary legislators. The Senate permeates her family. She and her husband, longtime Senate aide and now adviser to President Obama, Marty Paone , have raised three wonderful children.

Ruby is from the small town of Bladenboro, NC, and she brings the very best of small towns to this often chaotic city. In true smalltown fashion, she knows everyone, never forgets a name or a face, and has a smile and a kind remark for everyone she sees. I have often said that Senators are merely constitutional impediments to their staff, and the same can surely be said for Ruby . Her steadfast service and collegiality are part of what makes the Senate work. Ruby , thank you for all that you have done for the Senate, and we wish you the best in retirement.

Sen. Ben Carden: Mr. President, as I have said previously, there are many people who work behind the scenes to help the Senate function. We tend to take them for granted, but we shouldn’t. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge one such Senate staffer, Deputy Director of Doorkeepers Ruby Paone , who is retiring after more than 41 of steadfast service to the U.S. Senate and to our Nation. Everyone knows and loves Ruby , who has been here longer than any U.S. Senator currently serving, except for our esteemed colleague, the senior Senator from Vermont.

Ruby Paone , one of Lena and Wilbur Smith’s five children, grew up on a farm in Bladenboro, NC, where she spent her summers pulling peanuts and harvesting tobacco. She graduated from St. Andrew’s University and then came to Washington, DC. On March 17, 1975, she started working in the Senate as a card desk attendant. Then she became a reception room attendant and steadily worked her way up to her present position. Along the way, she met another Senate staffer, Marty Paone . The two of them starting dating, and then they were married in 1983. The Washington Post reported at the time:

Senator Robert Byrd paused in the debate to inform his colleagues that Ruby Grey Smith, who has worked in the Senate Reception Room for the last eight years, had married Marty Patrick Paone , a member of the floor staff of the Democratic Policy Committee. Byrd observed that with all the burdens of the Senate, the marriage shows that `every cloud does have a silver lining.’ Quick to agree with the minority leader, Majority Leader Howard Baker rose to add his congratulations, remembering that on the wedding day the press of Senate business almost interfered with the wedding hour. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum rushed out to get Mrs. Paone to hear the words of congratulation and she was there to see the chamber burst into applause. It may have been the best thing done in that Chamber all year.

As Senator Reid noted yesterday, Ruby has been here for seven different Presidential administrations, 10 consecutive inaugurations, 16 different Sergeants-at-Arms, and 383 different Senators. Ruby’s husband, Marty, who currently serves as deputy assistant to the President for legislative affairs, served as the Democratic secretary longer than anyone else in the history of the Senate. He worked in the Senate for 32 years overall, so he and Ruby have devoted nearly three-quarters of a century to this institution. Is there any other family so committed to service in the U.S. Senate? I doubt it. But the family’s service is not ending with Ruby’s retirement, fortunately. Ruby and Marty’s daughter, Stephanie, works in the Democratic cloakroom and their son, Tommy, works at the Senate appointments desk. They proudly and ably carry on the Paone family tradition of outstanding Senate service.

I believe the U.S. Senate–Senators and staff–is a big family. Like any family, we certainly have our disagreements. But I am sure we can all agree that Ruby Paone has been a cherished member of the Senate family for over four decades, and we will miss her here. But we take solace in knowing that she is leaving so she can spend more time with her most important family–her husband, Marty, and their children Alexander, Stephanie, and Tommie. We have been so fortunate to have Ruby in the Senate family for the past 41-plus years. The American people are so fortunate to have talented and dedicated public servants like Ruby and Marty and Stephanie and Tommy Paone . I know the entire Senate joins me in thanking Ruby for her service and wishing her and her family the very best.

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