By Amelia Santaniello

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO is celebrating our friend and colleague Pat Kessler as he begins his retirement.

He has been our go-to guy for all things politics for nearly 40 years. Kessler’s joy and passion for reporting is evident every day.

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His name is synonymous with politics, but Kessler didn’t always walk the Minnesota State Capitol beat. In 1984, the fresh-faced general assignment reporter did his first story on a fast food controversy involving the moving of a White Castle restaurant.

Kessler came to WCCO by way of Minnesota Public Radio. Having never been in front of the camera, he learned the craft.

“No one’s going to work harder, no one’s going to put more of their heart into it,” said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.

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His curiosity for current events and easy way of connecting with others made him a natural for government affairs.

“He really cares about what he’s doing,” WCCO anchor Frank Vascellaro said. “He’s really even more interested in making sure you understand what’s going on.”

“I remember when I first met him I felt like he was a celebrity because he was so well known around the Capitol,” Sen. Tina Smith said.

For decades, he built relationships, trust and the respect of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. And through it all, he reminds us how lucky we were to be witnessing history.

From the unifying, like same-sex marriage; to the complex or controversial, like Minnesota’s “Red Flag” law; and even the heartbreaks, like the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone.

“You need sort of referees in this system that we have,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. “We count on our press, our free and independent press, to play that role.”

Watch Pat Kessler’s Final Broadcast On WCCO

He interviewed world leaders, sitting presidents, countless lawmakers and everyday Minnesotans and Wisconsinites — treating each interview with the same respect and dedication.

“This is the greatest honor of my life. To be able to report to people in Minnesota, my people, what’s happening in their state,” Kessler said.

His passion and compassion broke down the complexities, setting aside the distractions and rhetoric to reveal the truth.

“Even when you got the tough question, you knew he was asking them for the right reasons,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

“I always think, ‘Is he ever going to get sick of this?’ But he comes in, ‘Isn’t this great! Wow, this is going to be so much fun! Can’t wait to see what happens!’” WCCO anchor Amelia Santaniello said.

“It’s been a great run. What a great life. What a great state,” Kessler said.

As Pat Kessler leaves the Capitol for one last time, we say thank you — but not goodbye.

“What kind of legacy do I leave? I just did the best job I could,” Kessler said.

Amelia Santaniello