Former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh announces retirement

Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 10:37am

House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, said Thursday he will not run for reelection in November after 38 years as a lawmaker.

With Republicans now dominating the legislature, Naifeh, who is 72, became the fifth Democrat in the House to announce retirements this session. Four Democratic senators have announced they won’t seek re-election.

“Governor McWherter, my mentor, always told me I would know when it was time to go home and I know that time has come for me to step aside for the next generation of leaders,” Naifeh said on the House floor.

Naifeh was the longest-serving House speaker in Tennessee history, serving in that position from 1991 until 2009. He is perhaps best known across the state as one of the leading advocates for a state
income tax in 2002. That effort failed and cost Democrats in later elections.

Republicans won a 64-member House majority in 2010. This year during redistricting, they redrew Naifeh’s district, taking away Democratic-leaning Haywood County and leaving only his home county of Tipton — an increasingly Republican Memphis suburb.

“It’s hard to put 38 years of service into a few remarks, but I will leave you with this thought,” Naifeh said. “It’s actually my favorite quote: Power and influence are only effective when used properly.

“Each and every one of you has been given an extraordinary amount of power by virtue of the office you hold. What you do with that power, whether it be for the good or for the bad, is entirely up to you. I hope you will remember that people matter, all people not just people from your caucus or your party, all people. Every person in this place got elected. They represent people and ideas that have validity, that deserve to be heard and accommodated. Remember that as you go forward. It has been my privilege to serve in this body, I will miss it enormously, but it is time to pass the torch and explore other options.”

8 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 3/8/12 at 10:08

Glad to see you follow Gov. McWherter's advice. let the young take over. It's their future they have to worry about.

By: Jughead on 3/8/12 at 11:16

Good riddance.

By: govskeptic on 3/8/12 at 3:04

Will this affect the wife's lobbying work at all? We know it will mean a loss of
income for "The Palm Restaurant" . Thankfully Green Hills is not losing a
resident, just a lost of the current Representative of the 81st district.

By: pswindle on 3/8/12 at 6:10

Thank you Jimmy for giving the working people a chance in TN. You have served us well, and it is scary where the GO will go next.

By: sharko20 on 3/9/12 at 11:33

Yes indeed, good riddance. A totally corrupt politician.

By: Jughead on 3/9/12 at 1:07

Video of Naifeh that he doesn't want you to see:

By: TimSkow on 3/12/12 at 8:42

Tim Skow

Too bad Jimmy didn't run again. It would have been fun to see the "Champion of the State Income Tax" get beat. With those living in the district no longer in fear of him, the documented "STUFF" from the last 30+ years that would have surfaced would have made GREAT reading. I suspect even The Tennessean would have had to endorse the Republican nominee - [exactly as they HAD to when Bill Boner was running for re-election - only a year before he was about to be thrown out of Congress by the Ethics Committee]

By: Jughead on 3/12/12 at 11:29

Don't forget--this is the man who did everything he could to destroy Tennessee with a State income tax.

Funny how we survived without one--Naifeh said it was not possible.