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October 10, 2016 4:04 AM, EDT

ATA Gives Bill Graves a Rousing Send-Off at Special Opening Reception at MCE

John Sommers II for TT

This story appears in the Oct. 10 print edition of Transport Topics.

LAS VEGAS — Several hundred truckers, friends and fellow American Trucking Associations employees gave former ATA President Bill Graves a rousing send-off here during a reception that marked the official opening of this year’s Management Conference & Exhibition.

“He is truly an ambassador for trucking,” ATA President Chris Spear said on Oct. 1. “I’m both honored and privileged to work with him, to work for him, and it’s truly an honor to replace him as your ninth president and CEO of ATA.”

Spear has led ATA since July 9.

Graves, who began his tenure in January 2003 immediately after concluding his second gubernatorial term in Kansas, will remain an adviser to the federation until the end of the year, when he retires.

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Former ATA Chairman Pat Thomas said Graves helped the trucking industry find its way through the most difficult recession in many years.

“Two things come to mind when I think about the governor,” Thomas said. “No.1 is his steady hand and number two is his political acumen.”

Scott Darling, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, lamented that Graves was leaving, saying he still needs his “guidance and mentorship.”

Speaking to the crowd after a short video that sang his praises, Graves promised his well-wishers that they’d surely be hearing from him again.

He has a commitment to ATA until the end of the year to assist Spear and ATA’s leadership team, Graves said in an interview after the ceremony.

Early next year he and his wife are going to South Florida to relax, he said.

“I’m just kind of taking a little break and letting the batteries recharge,” Graves said. “And then I’m planning to see what life has in store for me in the next chapter and verse.”

He smiled and added, “I’m fairly confident that something will reveal itself.”