After six terms, Indiana Rep. Tim Neese is ending his stint at the statehouse.
The Republican lawmaker from Elkhart was first elected to the District 48 spot in 2002, but late last year he announced he wouldn't be seeking re-election. Thus, Thursday, March 13, marked his last day as a sitting lawmaker during a legislative session, his last day of formal deliberations in Indianapolis.
"A little sentimentality, a little nostalgia," he said by phone from Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon, the last expected day of the 2014 session.
Still, there was no second-guessing. The former Elkhart city councilman is planning to run for mayor of Elkhart in the 2015 municipal elections.
"I feel like I'm making the right decision for me after 12 years," Neese said.
His House colleagues passed a resolution praising Neese's service. "Legislators and staff alike will miss him greatly. His departure will leave a void that will never be truly filled," it reads.
But while he lauded the friendships he's made, he won't miss other aspects of being a state lawmaker, like the frequent trips to Indianapolis when the legislature is in session. "I won't miss the six-hour round-trip drive and the packing and unpacking," Neese said.
Technically, Neese remains the District 48 representative, considered a part-time post, until elections in November. And he'll be on call to address constituent concerns. Whatever the case, the bulk of the action as a House member occurs during the legislative sessions.
Neese will keep his day job as director of the Solid Waste Management District of Elkhart County, and he'll turn more of a focus to the mayoral race. Dick Moore, the Democratic incumbent, will be running for a third term in Elkhart.
'BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE'
In a statement, Neese cited his co-authorship of a measure banning smoking on school buses. He also noted a 2012 measure he authored that would enable Indiana to remove itself from stipulations of the federal government's Affordable Care Act.
As for current legislation, he noted House Bill 1351, a measure he co-authored allowing for drug testing of those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.
“I’m not sure if it has truly sunken in yet that I will very soon leave the House chamber for the last time, however one thing I know for sure is that my years of service in the Indiana General Assembly have been some of the best years of my life," Neese said in a statement.
Three hopefuls, all Republicans, are running for the District 48 post, which covers northwest Elkhart County, including much of Elkhart. They are Doug Miller, Adam Bujalski and Jesse Bohannon.
Neese doesn't plan to get involved in the contest and won't be making any endorsement, he said. "All three of them are capable," Neese said.