Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., celebrated Lynne Phifer, a longtime member of his Senate staff in a surprise speech on the Senate floor in Washington on Thursday. She is retiring at the end of June after 36 years of public service with city, county, state and federal governments.
“She’s been a high-spirited, pure-hearted presence for us as long as I’ve known her,” Sen. Coons said in his speech. “I am deeply grateful to Lynne for her service and grateful for her significant contributions.”
Ms. Phifer graduated from Claymont High School and has stayed in Delaware since then. She began a 10-year run with Delaware’s Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Social Services, and the Division of Personnel. She served on the staff of former Wilmington Mayor Dan Frawley, then-Lt. Gov. John Carney, and Sen. Coons’ successor as New Castle County executive, Paul Clark.
Sen. Coons thanked Ms. Phifer for her seamless management in the senator’s front office, which Gov. Carney also mentioned in his sentiments, quoted by Sen. Coons.
Sen. Coons noted that Ms. Phifer handled numerous phone calls a day, sometimes hundreds.
“She’s known for always staying calm and professional when helping constituents, and trust me some of these calls can be incredibly emotional and difficult,” Sen. Coons said.
Ms. Phifer helped to run Sen. Coons’ internship program, interviewing, hiring, training and mentoring over 150 college interns, many of whom later joined their staff full-time or went on to work for other local government officials, become activists, attorneys, or non-profit leaders.
Sen. Coons also shared several personal anecdotes, such as the snack drawer and kind words she kept for all the staffer’s children who came to visit or finish out the workday with their parents. Sen. Coons said he and his wife have a long history with Ms. Phifer and her husband as well.
“[My wife] Annie and I have known Lynne going all the way back to their time together in the Women’s Democratic Club of Delaware, when we were young couples and looking forward to someday both being parents of twins,” Sen. Coons said.
In her retirement, Sen. Coons said Ms. Phifer wants to volunteer to help service dogs and other animals and spend more time with her own dog, Ellie, and her husband Dennis.
“Through her career, her volunteerism and civic activism, Lynne has made a real difference,” Sen. Coons said in closing. “I can’t thank her enough for her first-class dedication and our friendship. Lynne will be deeply missed in the Senate, and filling her shoes will be near impossible.”