REED: Madam President, I rise today to recognize one of the hardest working public servants in my State--indeed, in any State--Mark Hayward. Mark will be retiring at the end of the year as the District Director of the Small Business Administration in the State of Rhode Island.

This is no normal retirement. Mark's commitment to public service and Rhode Island stretches back 45 years. He was first elected to the city council in his hometown of East Providence, RI, while he was still a student at Providence College. His peers on the council quickly recognized the intelligence, the compassion, and the work ethic that dominated his career. And despite his youth, they voted him mayor of the town.

After 6 years as mayor, Mark made the decision to leave Rhode Island for Washington, DC, in order to serve as Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency and later as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Territorial and International Affairs at the Department of the Interior.

But the pull to return to Rhode Island was strong. After joining SBA in 1990, Mark moved to the Rhode Island office, which he was soon appointed to lead as the District Director. In total, Mark has spent a remarkable 29 years as acting and then permanent SBA District Director for the State of Rhode Island.

Most of our small businesses have never known a world without Mark's guidance. But his story is characterized by more than longevity. It is defined by hard work and an encyclopedic knowledge of SBA programs and business opportunities. Mark's combination of dedication and knowledge has been particularly valuable during times of crisis. From snowstorms to hurricanes, to the devastating floods that struck the Ocean State in 2010, Mark has been there to orchestrate the response and help businesses and homeowners recover.

This past August, Mark was on the scene working to help small businesses recover from a devastating fire on Block Island that destroyed one of the island's landmark hotels and harmed a number of small businesses. But Mark's skill and commitment shone highest during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when he seemed to be everywhere all at once. He was ever-present on Zoom townhalls, constantly on the phone with myself and other Members of the delegation, and always available to small business owners who needed help understanding the finer points of the Paycheck Protection Program and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

He was in demand because everybody knew that no one is better at slicing through the redtape than Mark.
It is not exaggerating to say that the loans and grants he helped Rhode Island businesses secure kept them afloat. Across his two-plus decades as permanent District Director, Mark has helped pipe $6.8 billion into Rhode Island's economy, enabling our small businesses to start, to grow, and to thrive while staying local. That is a hugely significant number, particularly for a State of Rhode Island's size.

Mark's work ethic during the pandemic was simply an extension of the work he puts in every day. Mark has long worked early mornings and been on call at all hours of the week and weekend, always ready to listen and to help.

Don't just take my word for it. SBA leadership has asked Mark to cover vacant Regional Administrator positions five times during his tenure with the Agency--a clear demonstration of the trust and respect his peers hold for him.

For Mark, this isn't just business, it is personal. It is about his dedication and commitment to public service. He is not just helping small businesses with their finances. He visits and patronizes them in his free time, embracing the mantra ``to shop local.'' And, at this point in his career, it is hard to find a Rhode Island business that he hasn't helped.

That is why we are going to miss Mark. Our entrepreneurs will miss his guidance, and I will miss his thoughtful advice and quick wit. I know he will fill his time with his family, his wife Nancy, his children--Patrick, Kelsey, and Megan--and grandchildren, Johnny and Lily. And in true Mark Hayward fashion, I also know he will find new ways to continue serving in Rhode Island.

And, I must say, this is a Rhode Island story. So the following should be obvious. Mark's grandmother and my grandmother would talk about once a week on the telephone in Portuguese, just to make sure the whole State was running properly, and, if they had to give advice, they would give advice. So he is an old family friend as well as a brilliant public servant.

Mark, congratulations on your retirement, and thank you. Let me yield to my colleague.