DOVER — After 16 years of service to his constituents and the state, Rep. John A. Kowalko, D-Newark, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of his term in November.
Near the finish of a House of Representatives session, an emotional Rep. Kowalko announced his decision not to seek reelection.
“There’s a time for everyone to pass the baton, and this is my time,” he said.
The self-described progressive Democrat urged similar-thinking members of the House to continue his efforts after he is no longer an elected official.
“I will work hard for my constituents for the last five months. And in November, I will pass my position as the 25th District representative over to a new and hopefully just as progressive successor,” he said.
Before officially making his declaration, Rep. Kowalko took a few moments to look back on his work.
His nearly 16 years in office was a second career.
“For 37 years, I was a machinist. I was a proud union member during that time, serving as a union official and advocate. I worked at Delaware City Refinery for 25 years, serving as a union steward and a general foreman. These experiences gave me a solid foundation for rules of order and their importance, the power of solidarity and a profound respect for working men and women and their families,” he said.
He added that he brought his experience working in Delaware City with him to Dover.
“I have held these values that are so dear to me throughout my career as a legislator. I am proud of my continuous and resolute support for not only organized labor but working people, their families and for all Delaware citizens.”
During his career, he was a champion of transparency and was recognized around the world for his ethical stance on government officials. He was featured in French newspapers and was chosen as one of four U.S. legislators to travel to England at the British government’s expense for a series of discussions with officials and visits that included offshore wind sites and universities that had training programs for engineers and craftsmen dedicated to wind technology.
“My bills, and the bills I put my name on, would support ordinary people, working people, parents, children, the homeless and Delaware’s small-business community. I have always supported government transparency, good government and open government. I’ve always supported sponsor bills improving health care, voting rights, gender equity and the environment,” Rep. Kowalko said.
After he made his remarks, he received a standing ovation from his colleagues in the House, on both sides of the aisle. Many rose to honor and thank the longtime representative for his service.
House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, said that Rep. Kowalko will be honored June 30, at the end of the legislative session.
“It’s been a pleasure working with you all of these years. You challenge us. Sometimes, it is fun. Sometimes, it’s not, but your heart is always there. I want to thank you for your service. We are very touched today,” she said.