"Almost everything he says is important to the issue, and that's uncommon here," Perdue said. "He does not believe in chit-chat."
Fellow 17th District Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, said Foster's temperament as a surgeon has served him well in the Legislature.
"He never gets mad. He never loses his cool, but there's no one in the Senate more persistent on issues," McCabe said. "He just does not give up."
While many legislators avoid the controversial or complex, McCabe said Foster embraced such issues, be it the intricacies of health-care reform or coming up with ways to adequately fund public employee pension plans as chairman of the Senate Pensions Committee.
"He brought attention to the issues -- contentious stuff that most legislators don't want to have to deal with," said McCabe. "He wanted to change things. He didn't want to occupy a position."
"He's fearless and unafraid to speak truth to power," said Margaret Chapman Pomponio of WV FREE. "He's willing to stand up and say things others may be thinking but are afraid to say."
Foster frequently championed the women's health-rights group against conservative attacks in the Legislature.
"He brings a certain amount of sanity and bright light to a place that sometimes can make a person feel cynical," she said.
Jack Canfield, a former legislator who has worked alongside Foster in numerous capacities, including on the symphony's Board of Directors and as a citizen member of a legislative interim committee, said he's always been impressed with Foster's willingness to serve.
"He's like the Energizer bunny -- everywhere at once," Canfield said. "He goes from a legislative meeting to a community group gathering at a fire hall, to an art exhibit, and then visits someone in the hospital on the way home."
McCabe concurred, saying he's always amazed that, in addition to his day job as an administrator at Charleston Area Medical Center and his legislative duties, Foster not only has managed to serve on a variety of boards and commissions -- including over the years, the Charleston Convention and Visitors' Bureau, the Kanawha Valley Fellowship Home, the Clay Center and the Education Alliance -- but also attends a variety of issue-oriented public meetings in the community.
"He is everywhere," McCabe said. "It is astounding to me his conscientious approach to what I call grassroots politics."
Those at other levels of politics have noted Foster's work, as well.
"As physician, senator and advocate, Dan's work on behalf of others has had an enormous impact on our state, particularly in improving access to health care," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "He has totally dedicated himself to fighting for policies that bring good to West Virginians, and it's been a privilege to work with him over the years."
Sen. Joe Manchin, also D-W.Va., who served as governor during much of Foster's legislative tenure, said, "During my time in Charleston, everyone knew that Dan was a man we all could trust, a man of strong character who worked tirelessly for the people of Kanawha County and the people of West Virginia."
As a longtime participant and observer in the legislative process, Canfield said he appreciates those "uh-oh" moments in committee meetings, and said no one delivers them better than Foster.
"You're testifying, and Senator Foster raises his hand. You know it's going to be something like, 'I assume you're familiar with the story in The New York Times this morning about the new computer system for Medicaid in North Dakota . . '" Canfield said.
Although Foster's legislative service is ending, Perdue said he intends to continue to seek his counsel on health-care issues.
"I've already told him, you can leave us, but that doesn't mean you can leave me," Perdue said.
Said Canfield, "He's fought many, many fights to improve the health of West Virginians. Sometimes, he's taken on fights he knows he can't win, but he uses every discussion as a teaching moment, and has had a real impact."
"He exemplifies to my mind what the best of public service is, and the best of being a professional," said McCabe. "He has been a star in both cases."
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.