District 38 Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, is stepping away from public service effective immediately.
A special election will be needed to fill his seat, and Ellis said Gov. Phil Bryant could announce its date next week.
His term expires in 2020.
Ellis, who will turn 71 in July, has served as a representative for portions of Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties since 1980. He was the first state representative to serve as House majority leader and most recently served on committees for accountability, efficiency and transparency, apportionment and elections, corrections, judiciary and ways and means.
He debated stepping down for months, Ellis said Friday, and he looks forward to spending time with his family, six grandchildren and Noxubee County congregation.
“It was hard to do, but I just got to the point where I was asking myself if I’m really being effective enough. There’s a burnout factor that people don’t get. Everything I do is with the fullest extent of energy I have. I have to be effective, and I have to make an impact,” Ellis said. “My grandchildren all want a piece of me, and I want them to have all of me as possible. I’m going to give them as much as I can of myself as long as I’m left on this earth and show them how to live their lives. You can’t do that by being absent, and my wife and family have sacrificed for all of these years.”
District 41 Rep. Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus, referred to Ellis as “the dean of the Golden Triangle delegation” and said the long-serving legislator inspired his own House run.
“If it wasn’t for people like him and (District 16 Sen.) Angela Turner-Ford, I wouldn’t be able to serve in the capacity that I serve in right now. He’s not just a fixture in the legislature – he is someone that was held in high regard on both sides of the aisle,” Karriem said. “When I heard about it today, I got weak because I know how much we’re going to miss the institutional knowledge that Tyrone brings to the table. I knew this day was going to come, but I hate it had to come now.”
District 37 Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, said legislators stopped and listened to Ellis every time he took to the House floor to debate a bill or an issue.
“There are a good many that get up there and talk just to hear themselves, and we don’t pay them any attention. When Tyrone gets up to talk, folks listen,” Chism said. “He has accomplished a lot since he was elected. Mississippi has changed tremendously, and Tyrone and some others that came in that particular year have been able to see it and make a difference. I can understand that it’s a long way being in the minority and trying to fend things off from being in the majority and deciding what’s going to take place. I wish him all the best.”
Outgoing Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn previously hinted at running for Ellis’ seat last year when she announced she would seek re-election instead of pursuing a mayoral bid. Wynn, on Friday, again did not commit to running for the vacated seat.
“I think everyone knows that I have said, when the time is right, that would be a position I would have interest in. I didn’t know when it would be. Now? We’ll see,” she said.
“Since 1980, Rep. Ellis has represented District 38 with grace and a giving spirit in such an unselfish manner. He has championed many legislative issues during his tenure. I am grateful for his commitment and dedication to public service,” Wynn added. “While this announcement was sudden and unexpected, I wish him and his family the best as he begins the process of retirement. He graciously answered the call to be a public servant.”
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch