Senator was instrumental in University Center in Dodge City among others

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe
Family and colleagues reflect on the life and legacy of Kansas Senator Bud Estes who died on Feb. 13 after a prolonged illness.

Whether it was for the University Training Center or leadership through the many local boards he was a part of, Kansas District 38 Sen. Bud Estes leaves a lasting legacy for generations in Ford County.

Estes died on Saturday, Feb. 13, in Bucklin after a prolonged illness, according to his family.

Estes had received a kidney transplant in October 2017, a kidney donated to him by his daughter-in-law, according to Estes' wife, Renae Estes.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that struck in March 2020, Renae Estes said, "He never actually tested positive for the virus but he was experiencing symptoms about mid-March and had them for a couple of weeks."

Family and colleagues reflected on the life of Bud Estes in the week since his death.

"Probably everyone you talk to will passionately espouse how dad got things done," said Bud's son, Brad Estes. "While that is absolutely true, he was the ultimate 'do-er,' there was something more important to me. He did not judge a book by its cover, a man by his look or by the title he held. Dad gave everyone respect and treated them with dignity.

"While it’s easy to say that we should all live this way, it is rare to find someone who truly does. He believed in second chances and the ability of people to redeem themselves. Dad was not a bleeding heart, but looked you in the eye, listened to your story, assessed what he believed your character to be and went to work on your behalf. He was not always right on his character assessments, but it did not stop him from approving of the next person."

Born in 1946 to Maynard Sr. and Wanda Estes, Bud Estes graduated from Bucklin High School in 1964 and went on to receive his bachelor's degree from Fort Hays State University.

For 50 years, Bud Estes was the manager of Bucklin Tractor and Implement, a company founded by Bud's grandfather Ralph Estes and operated by his father, Maynard Estes.

"He retired 50 years ago at BTI and was part of ownership founded by our grandfather in 1944," said Bud's brother, Mike Estes. "It's always been the Estes namesake and now we have six stores across the state after being a little store in Bucklin."

Along with the Bucklin location, Bud Estes managed its Ness City store.

After retirement, Bud Estes turned his attention to politics.

He served as the Bucklin mayor for 16 years and president of the Lions Club in Bucklin and Dodge City Roundup before becoming a member of the state Legislature.

Bud Estes was elected to represent the Kansas House of Representatives District 119 in 2014 and served for four years before being selected to replace outgoing Kansas District 38 Sen. Garrett Love in 2016.

In 2020, Bud Estes was re-elected to the Senate district.

While in the Senate, Bud Estes was the chair of the Federal & State Affairs Committee and Vice Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

"All through growing up years, Bud was a natural-born leader," said Mike Estes. "If you need something done, you needed to get Bud on your side. He loved to do things for people and kind of liked to lead the way."

One such project was the development and opening of the University Training Center in Dodge City, which opened in 2020.

According to Dodge City/Ford County Economic Development executive director Joan Knight, “Sen. Estes was the visionary behind the idea of bringing health care education back to Hennessey Hall with a regional focus of growing our own to serve the needs of the region. Bud was active on a health care committee and knew that we were losing health care services due to the lack of available licensed providers and nurses. He had the connections with several of the universities and people throughout the southwest Kansas region that allowed us to begin conversations to work together to gain access back to our citizens that want to grow here in their careers.

"I have had the opportunity to work with a great leader, entrepreneur, public servant and overall genuinely sincere giving person, Sen. Bud Estes."

Knight said Bud Estes had also been on the Board of Directors and as Chairman of the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation and worked to create the Community Housing Association of Dodge City and the Rural Education and Workforce Alliance.

"His ability to build consensus and partnerships was impeccable," said Knight. "Bud was a key player in the creation of the University Training Center and helped us connect valuable partnerships with the universities and regional leaders.

"These are just a couple examples of the opportunities that I had to work with Bud. I know that this is only the surface of the impact that he made on our community, region and state. Having the opportunity to learn from this dynamic leader has been a tremendous benefit to me and many others in this region. I will continue to remember his leadership and strive to implement the vision that he has helped this community create.

"Rest in peace, my friend. You have truly been a legend for this community."

Bud Estes was also a member of Bucklin United Methodist Church and worked closely with the Bucklin Lions Club.

"He did a lot of things for people like the Lions Club," Mike Estes said. "He was always part of the people helping organizations and always wanted to get something done for people. He was a guy with a big heart and knows how to move things along and didn't let the grass grow under his feet. He was always going in different direction.

"If we were going somewhere, he had to drive, and that prepared him for Legislature, better to be a do-er or be left behind. He'd go out in front."

A passion that came along over the year's for Bud Estes were movies.

"He was always a moviegoer, especially in the last few years," said Mike Estes. "There was never a movie he didn't see."

The movies were a key in negotiating skills, according to Dodge City Commissioner Brian Delzeit.

According to Delzeit, one Saturday four or five years ago, Bud Estes called him and asked if he would meet him and the local Muslim Sheikh to help them find a building they could utilize as a mosque for prayer.

"He said we’d both most likely be criticized and would understand if I didn’t want to participate," said Delzeit. "I told Bud that I would meet them at 1 p.m. the next day. Bud was a man of faith that strongly supported freedom of religion and truly practiced that conviction regardless of the criticism, and I also learned the best time to negotiate legislative issues with Bud was after he went to the movies."

Delzeit recalled reaching out to Bud Estes regarding an upcoming tax lid vote, a concern both shared.

"We were jarring back and forth about how it might be worded to accomplish what we both needed without any luck when suddenly he says, 'I have to go, I have to go, will call you back in two hours', and he hangs up," Delzeit said. "He did call back in just under two hours as he suggested and proceeded to tell me all about the movie and that he and I needed to go see it when it comes to Dodge.

"We then re-engaged our discussion and came to a solution in less than five minutes. I later mailed him some gift certificates to our local movie theatre and told him that was our next meeting place to discuss items we don’t agree upon. Unfortunately, I never got to enjoy that movie with my friend."

When asked which movie it was Bud Estes had attended that night, Delzeit said, "That kept me up most of the night thinking about Bud. 'I cannot remember the movie.' "

In sharing condolences to the Estes family, Ford County Commissioner Shawn Tassett said, "It is Kelly and my sincerest hope that Sen. Estes' family finds comfort in the peace that he now enjoys in the embrace of our Savior. We would also now join so many others in thanking Bud's family for his years of service to community, state and country. You all may be proud of the legacy he has left."

Mike Estes added, "It's a big loss for our family and Renae has been a big part of our family and a generous lady."

Committee members of the six counties that comprise Senate District 38 such as Ford, Clark, Gray, Meade, Seward and Hodgeman counties in the Republican precinct will select the replacement for Bud Estes, and the selection will be officially appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly.

To contact the writer, email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com