Mississippi's House Speaker gets ready to end career

Published: Dec. 7, 2011 at 7:31 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2011 at 1:05 AM CST
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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - "I was in your place 32 years ago," said current Mississippi House Speaker, Democrat Billy McCoy as he welcomed newly elected lawmakers to the legislature. "I know what an exciting time this is for you."

His welcome comes with his departure from more than three decades inside the Mississippi State Capitol representing his hometown district of Rienzi in Northeast Mississippi.

McCoy says when he first got to the legislature, the state had a lot of work to do.

"At that time we were not even status quo." McCoy said. "Now we compete with any state in the nation for the best in business and industry and opportunity."

For the last eight years, McCoy has led the House of Representatives as speaker and when it came time for re-election this year, McCoy decided it was time to step down and retire from a life in the spotlight often spent coming under fire by Republicans for leadership decisions.

That election has now shifted the House to a Republican advantage and while McCoy says he's disappointed to see Democrats loose control, he's optimistic lawmakers will meet the needs of the state.

"It's a different day, in a different age and a different set of leaders and I wish them the very best," McCoy said.

Even the state's soon-to-be top leader, Governor-elect Phil Bryant says although there were disagreements, the legislature will be without a key player in January.

"He has done a remarkable job and as he leaves here he remains one of the most passionate and dedicated public servants that Mississippi has seen," Bryant said.

When it comes to his legacy, McCoy says that's for someone else to determine, he's just happy to have been able to be a part of Mississippi's past, present and future.

"I'm glad to see that Mississippi has made so much progress in the last 32 years. I hope I've been a little bit part of it," McCoy said.

With the speaker position up for grabs in a House with a Republican majority, Republican representative Philip Gunn of Clinton is expected to take over after being nominated by his party.

The vote for House Speaker will be one of the first agenda items for the House chamber.

Copyright 2011 WLBT. All rights reserved.