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Emma Barrasso was hard at work at her summer landscaping job Friday morning, running a weed whacker outside her dad's Casper office, when he called her and asked if she was busy.

Not for this phone call, she wasn't.

"He said, 'You're talking to the newest Senator from the state of Wyoming,'" Emma, 17, said Friday.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal called Dr. John Barrasso at 9:15 a.m. about his decision to name the orthopaedic surgeon and state senator from east Casper to replace the late Sen. Craig Thomas, who died on June 4 from complications from leukemia.

After hearing the news from her dad, Emma called her brother Peter, 20, at home.

Peter jumped up, put in his contact lenses and drove to meet his dad, he said.

As of this spring both children, whose mother is Linda Nix of Casper, are Natrona County High School graduates, which makes the transition to U.S. Senate life a bit easier, the senior Barrasso said at a news conference in front of the Dick Cheney Federal Building on Friday.

Peter will be a sophomore at his father's alma mater Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Emma will be a freshman studying engineering at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

They're proud of their dad.

"He's more prepared for this than anyone else," Peter said.

He's interested in government, and he joked that it will be helpful to have a family member in Congress, which meets down the road from Georgetown.

While Barrasso intends to return to Wyoming as much as possible, he leaves behind a growing medical practice at Casper Orthopaedics; Wyoming Senate District 27 covering Evansville, east Casper and Natrona County to the Converse County line; and a local legacy in health care and community involvement.

Pennsylvania native and son of a cement finisher Barrasso moved to Wyoming more than 20 years ago after earning undergraduate and medical degrees at Georgetown University and a residency at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

He gained wide public appeal through professional societies, his newspaper columns, television - "helping you help yourself" - health commentaries, the Wyoming Health Fairs, and Casper Orthopaedics.

At Friday's news conference, Barrasso said Casper Orthopaedics will gain two more physicians this summer so his departure will not affect the practice.

"I'm fortunate to have wonderful partners," he said.

"People are always going to ask me health care questions," Barrasso added.

His professional, personal and political lives intersected frequently.

"He's operated on my knee before," said Terry Wingerter, the lone Democrat on the Natrona County Commission.

Wingerter attended the Friday news conference and applauded when Barrasso said he would be a senator for all Wyomingites.

"I know John personally and I think the governor made an excellent choice," Wingerter said.

The professional and political often overlapped in the Wyoming Senate, too.

"Dr. Barrasso was instrumental in helping us attain licensure for respiratory therapists," said Denice Lusk, who works at the Wyoming Medical Center.

Lusk and other respiratory therapists had been working for 10 years to set up a professional licensing procedure in Wyoming, which was one of the last states to have it, she said.

"Dr. Barrasso in the Senate did it," Lusk said. "He's a good health care advocate."

For two decades, Barrasso lent his doctor celebrity status to the annual Labor Day Jerry Lewis telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"I can't imagine the telethon without Dr. Barrasso," said Melissa Ortberg, district director of MDA Wyoming.

Ortberg is happy for him, but wonders what will happen with the telethon at the end of the summer.

"I'm thrilled that he's going to be representing our great state," she said. "As far as his future involvement, that's going to be discussed."

But if he's back home, and has nothing to do in early September, well come on down.

"He's welcome, and we're celebrating with him," Ortberg said.

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