Kowalski honoured with portrait
Long-time MLA, speaker recognized in Legislature
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012 03:16 pm
Long-time speaker Ken Kowalski returned to the legislature Monday, where he was honoured with his official portrait.
The ceremony, hosted in the rotunda, attracted dozens of family, friends and politicians offering their well-wishes and positive reflections of the man who spent 32 years in public office.
“It has been one heck of a thrill and one heck of a ride,” Kowalski said. “I am just so, so, so thankful that I’ve had an opportunity to just be a little bit of this.”
He reflected fondly on his years in the legislature, saying it was nothing but “blue skies and sunshine.”
He won his first of nine elections for the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock constituency in 1979 at the age of 34.
Kowalski, 67, became the 11th speaker of the Legislative Assembly in 1997 and served 15 years in that role – the second longest term in provincial history. His reign ended when he announced he would not seek re-election in the 2012 provincial election.
“This is a man who has served five premiers, held five cabinet positions and is, I believe, one of our longest sitting speakers and a man who is in every sense of the word, not only a true public servant but a parliamentarian,” said Premier Alison Redford.
She said she first met Kowalski at a party convention when she was 16 years old and has gleaned advice from him ever since.
Gene Zwozdesky took over as speaker following the 2012 provincial election and said he has incredibly large shoes to fill.
“Fair, precise, dignified, eloquent, generous and most of all, caring, are just some of the words that accurately describe our guest of honour, Ken Kowalski, both professionally and personally,” he said.
Opposition leaders were also on hand to offer their praise for Kowalski and his years of service.
NDP leader Brian Mason pointed out Kowalski’s role in creating the School at the Legislature and MLA for a Day programs, which opened the legislature to the public.
He also said, despite their political differences, he has learned a lot from Kowalski over the years.
Liberal leader Raj Sherman focused on the personal side of Kowalski, which he said brought him great comfort when his own father passed away.
“I lost a father not too long ago and the human side of the speaker was he was like a father,” Sherman said. “He was a tremendous source for me, personally.”
Kerry Towle, Wildrose MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake spoke on behalf of leader Danielle Smith and pointed out that several members of the Legislature weren’t even alive when Kowalski was first elected.
“The portrait unveiled today will honour the legacy of a man who has committed much of his life to this place and the important work conducted in it,” she said.
The portrait unveiled Monday reveals a younger Kowalski, as it was commissioned roughly a decade ago because painter Tag Kim expressed concern over the longevity of his eyesight.
The portrait will be permanently displayed on the fourth floor of the Legislature, alongside the paintings of 10 of Kowalski’s predecessors.