A sign in front of the Brit Spaugh Zoo reads, “The City of Great Bend wishes to express its sincere appreciation to Senator Pat Roberts for his assistance in making the Great Bend Raptor Center a reality.”
The Raptor Center is a building that serves as the entrance to the zoo. Its features include exhibits, restrooms, a gift shop, greeter’s station, administrative office and animal exam rooms. There’s a camera to view what’s going on outside and a window so people can watch veterinarians as they examine animals. Behind the scenes, there is room for the zoo staff to rehabilitate injured raptors, or birds of prey, and return them back into the wild if possible. It was that mission of raptor rehabilitation that helped Roberts work to secure a $645,000 federal grant that was used to build the Raptor Center, which opened in 2009.
Sen. Roberts visited the zoo in 2013 to see the new sign added in his honor. He stepped inside the veterinary station and patted Toby, the leopard, who was asleep in the exam room for his annual physical. In an assuring tone he said, “You’re going to be fine, Toby, I promise. I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”
Roberts joined the Marine Corps in 1958, and later started his Washington career that spans 10 presidencies, beginning in 1967. He was chief of staff to two Kansas Republicans, Sen. Frank Carlson and later Rep. Keith Sebelius. In 1980, Roberts was elected to the House of Representatives and in 1996 he was elected to the Senate.
His legacy includes helping to write multiple farm bills and helping to secure federal funding to rebuild Greensburg after the 2007 tornado. Roberts is the first Member of Congress to have chaired both the House and Senate agricultural committees.
Now 84 years old, Roberts is retiring and Rep. Roger Marshall is senator-elect. Roberts hoped to take a farewell tour through each of Kansas’s 105 counties, but that was stopped by the novel coronavirus.
We hope Roberts will make that tour, or at least visit Barton County again, when it is safe to do so. Meanwhile, we'd like to say, “Thanks Pat, for all you’ve done for Kansas.”