Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has announced that Jackie Cottrell, his chief of staff of almost 18 years, will step down at the end of June. Cottrell is one of only two chiefs of staff to date in Roberts’ nearly 40 years of public service to Kansas.
“Jackie is a strategic thinker and brilliant communicator who has helped me navigate some of the toughest legislative and political battles I have faced in the House and the Senate,” Roberts says. “I often describe her as my right and my left arm. Whether pressing for the creation of the National Bio and Agro-Defense facility, building the Eisenhower Memorial or passing multiple farm bills, I turned to Jackie to lead my team through long and difficult challenges.
“She provided wise counsel during three Senate races, was never afraid to give me tough advice and managed more than 30 people in Kansas and Washington with grace and care. She has been a leader among her peers in the Senate. Staff and Kansans alike have depended on her and will miss her positive ‘can do’ attitude. Simply put, Jackie made things happen. I will forever appreciate her service to me and to the people of Kansas. This office will not be the same without her.”
Cottrell started with Roberts in 1995, serving as press secretary when he became chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Cottrell moved to Topeka in 1996 to manage communications for Roberts’ run for the U.S. Senate. She joined his office in the Senate before moving to manage communications for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
In 2003, Cottrell returned to Capitol Hill when Roberts appointed her chief of staff. Cottrell received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her master’s degree from the University of Missouri. She worked as press secretary for Rep. Tom Tauke, R-Iowa, and Rep. Scott Klug, R-Wisc., before joining Roberts.
LEAVING JOB: Jackie Cottrell is shown with her boss, Sen. Pat Roberts. She is stepping down after 18 years as Roberts’ Chief of staff. Roberts has announced his retirement at the end of his current term.
“When I accepted the job with then-Congressman Pat Roberts 25 years ago, I could never have imagined the doors he would open for me,” Cottrell says. “He trusted me to make decisions. He empowered me to aim high and achieve results. He gave me a seat at the table early on when women were still often sitting on the back benches on Capitol Hill. There’s no way to express my gratitude for the public service career I’ve had or the history I have been able to witness.
“It’s been a privilege to lead a team of talented and dedicated staff. Kansas and the country are losing a truly great statesman upon Pat Roberts’ retirement. I am honored to have been a part of his team.”
Chad Tenpenny is incoming chief of staff
With Cottrell’s departure to the private sector, Roberts has named his long-time state director and counsel Chad Tenpenny as incoming chief of staff. Tenpenny, who is based in Roberts’ Overland Park office, has served in that position since 2001.
Previously, he worked in Roberts’ Washington office as Counsel. He earned both his bachelor’s degree and law degree at the University of Kansas. Additional experience includes working in Kansas state government, interning for Sen. Bob Dole and working as an associate attorney in a Washington, D.C., law firm.
“Chad has traveled miles and miles with me along Kansas’ back roads and to all 105 counties many times,” Roberts says. “He understands what the state needs and how to get the job done. He has represented me all across Kansas and has strong relationships with state, community and business leaders. He grew up working on the family farm in Willliamstown so his roots in the agriculture community are deep.
“During this pandemic, Chad has been my lead staffer working with Kansas businesses to solve problems and find solutions. There is no better person than Chad Tenpenny to lead the staff and represent me as we sprint to the finish line.”
INCOMING CHIEF: Chad Tenpenny will take over as Chief of staff for Pat Roberts following the departure of Jackie Cottrell.
“Senator Roberts has a dedication to the people of Kansas that is unmatched,” Tenpenny says. “I’ve watched him comfort people who have just lost their homes in fires and tornadoes. I have watched him fight to ensure those in need have food assistance, especially school kids. I have watched him work to strengthen our military bases, including returning the Big Red 1 to Kansas.
"I am fortunate to be able to represent a senior leader whose voice in Washington makes a difference for us in Kansas every day. He has a lot left to do in this last year, and I am honored to lead our team in that effort.”
Tenpenny lives in Leawood with his family and can often be found coaching his daughters’ basketball teams. Tenpenny succeeds Cottrell and Leroy Towns, who served as Roberts’ first chief from 1980 to 2002.
Roberts is Kansas’ longest serving member of the federal delegation and is completing his fourth and final term in the U.S. Senate at the end of the year. He is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.