Before onlookers gathered at the foot of the Jack Kilby statue in front of Great Bend’s Barton County Courthouse Tuesday morning, Great Bend Physician Roger Marshall made official his bid for Congress.
Marshall is vying for the Big First congressional seat now occupied by Fowler Republican Tim Huelskamp. The primary would be in August 2016.
Before his address, he roamed the crowd, shaking hands and greeting all those present,
After the launch, Marshall embarked on a 17-city tour. In four days, he will travel 1,200 miles in the sprawling Big First which encompasses 63 counties in northern and western Kansas.
“I’ve lived the dream and walked the walk,” Marshall said. Marshall was joined by his wife Laina, and their family in making the announcement.
Marshall chose the memorial as a backdrop for a reason. The title of the Kilby memorial is “The Gift,” symbolizing the Nobel laureate’s giving the microchip to the world.
Marshall said he now wants to give back.
The candidate, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Great Bend since 1991, said he’s often asked who he is and why he is qualified, why he’s running and how he thinks he can make a difference.
“I’ve always looked at this as though I am applying for a job, the job of representing you all,” Marshall said. Over the last two and half years, he’s logged over 20,000 miles visiting communities in the district.
“I don’t just stop,I spend hours and hours meeting the people and seeing what is important to them,” he said. He’s seen the communities have much in common.
“In a state where 37 percent of the economy is agriculture, you better know something about agriculture and cattle,” Marshall said. He spent his youth on a tractor and tossing hay bales, and still has interest in a livestock-feeding operation.
Other key issues include health care and education (he’s taught and coached at a community college) and commerce (he sits on a local bank board). “I think I’m qualified because I done all those jobs,” Marshall said.
The economic impact of the military, energy (oil and alternative sources) and national security will also be on the agenda,
“These are all bound together by faith, community and family,” he said. “It’s the values Kansas is famous for along with our work ethic.
“I’m qualified because I talk your language,” he said. He understands the importance of grain and oil prices, and the need for quality schools.
“Why vote for me? What separates me from everybody else?” he asked. “I think I am good at listening.”
He’s honed this in years of practicing medicine. “If I listen long enough, people will tell me what’s wrong with them and often tell me how they will make themselves better.”
Over the years, he said he’s had several opportunities to serve the community.
He has served as chairman of the Board of Great Bend Regional Hospital and has just completed his term as the district governor of Rotary International. A lifelong Republican, Marshall served seven years in the Army Reserves where he trained a mobile hospital support unit, rising to the rank of captain.
In addition, Marshall has been involved with the Golden Belt Community Foundation and is a commissioner for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
“If you can lead volunteers, you can lead anybody,” he said. He views being a congressmen as being a volunteer.
“I have nothing to hold over you,” he said, adding he serves at the pleasure of the voters. “My door’s always open. I practice servant leadership.”
He cited a trip he took to Topeka in 1999 along with Great Bend Mayor Mike Allison and City Administrator Howard Partington. “Great Bend had economic issues. It had sort of a black eye,” he said.
The visit was to discuss how Great Bend was going to solve its problems and turn things around in 10 years. Ideas included the Front Door, Wetlands Education Center, swimming pool improvements, a new hospital, better high school athletic facilities, a winning football team, and a new sports complex.
“It may have taken us more than 10 years, but we got it done,” he said.”It took leadership to do that.”
Marshall said he only played a supporting role in these efforts, but said he was proud to have been a part of them.
Marshall said he’s been asked to run for the office for the past six years. But, until now, family and work commitments have stood in the way.
His youngest child will graduate from Great Bend High School next May and he is no longer as actively involved in the administration at Great Bend Regional Hospital as he once was.
He and his Laina have four children, the youngest of which is a senior at Great Bend High School. They recently became grandparents. A Kansas native, Marshall earned his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Kansas State University, before graduating from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He received his Medical Doctorate in 1987.