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Published: Saturday, March 11, 2017 @ 3:00 AM
The arrival of the month of March marked the end of an era on Capitol Hill, as veteran Associated Press radio reporter Jerry Bodlander retired after over thirty years in the business, most of that time covering news for AP Radio from Washington, D.C. and inside the halls of Congress.
"It's been a blast," Jerry said to a few dozen of his fellow reporters, producers and press gallery staffers who attended his sendoff in the U.S. Capitol.
"This is a unique place, where you watch history, sometimes come together," Bodlander said, "sometimes quickly, sometimes very slowly," he said to knowing chuckles about the work pace of the U.S. Congress.
Jerry's voice was well known around the country for his news reports - usually no longer than 30 seconds - as he covered Congress and politics for AP Radio.
Many times, we found ourselves not only side by side at news events on Capitol Hill, but also out on the road in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire, at political conventions, Presidential debates and more.
Both of us loved the travel, and all the planning that went with it.
"It’s a major aspect of the job I certainly will miss," Jerry told me. "Very few people get to do it anymore and we’ve been fortunate."
Here we were at one of the 2016 Republican debates:
My first memory of working with Bodlander was in September of 1989 - both of us had been dispatched from D.C. to cover Hurricane Hugo, and we crossed paths in the airport in Raleigh, North Carolina.
It was my first hurricane assignment, and Jerry quickly gave me a few tips before I headed to the coast.
“Never let your gas tank get below half full,” he said, “and always keep food and drinks in your cooler.”
I passed that tip on to many other reporters over the years, as Jerry and I were kindred spirits when it came to the prep needed to get ready for a big story on the road.
For example, when we traveled to political events, there were some hard lessons learned along the way, and we made sure to never repeat the error.
"Never check your equipment," Jerry and I would say in unison as we waited for yet another plane.
"You can always buy new clothes."
Jerry's final big political trip was in October of 2016, when we headed out to Las Vegas for the third debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
With his body clock still on Eastern Time, Jerry got up very early one morning, and drove over two hours to Utah, just so he could record a story about independent candidate Evan McMullin, and be able to have an actual dateline from the Beehive State.
Then he drove back, tracked me down at the press credentialing center, and gave me a ride over to the debate site.
As Jerry spoke at his Capitol Hill sendoff, he looked around the room and admitted that he could tell stories for many hours about those in attendance.
"Are you going to use the full 30 hours, Jerry?" said AP Radio colleague Mark Smith to laughter, as a room full of Washington reporters chuckled at the post-cloture filibuster joke.
"We've been on the road together watching some of these Senators try to become President, and all of them failing," Bodlander said.
"It's just been a blast."