PARKERSBURG- A longstanding member of the West Virginia House of Delegates has decided not to seek another term and will step down at the end of his current term.
Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood, announced Thursday he plans to retire after this year.
The 78-year-old insurance agent and property manager was elected to the House in 1994 and has continually won re-election and represented the 10th District in the House for about 20 years.
"This is my 20th year," he said. "I thought that would be long enough. I know some of my political adversaries would probably agree with me on that."
He is the minority chair for the House Banking Committee, the minority chair for the Veterans Affairs Committee and is serving on the Government Organization Committee, Industry & Labor Committee and the Small Business Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee.
Azinger said he does not have any big plans once he leaves office. He has rental properties that he will manage.
"I will just fuss around," he said with a chuckle.
Azinger said he is proud of the work legislators have done in the Legislature to privatize worker's compensation, done tort reform in regard to medical malpractice, improved the state's insurance climate, reduced business taxes and made the state more business friendly to get companies to invest in West Virginia.
"There is always more work that needs to be done," he said.
During this session, Azinger hopes to get a bill through to make pseudoephedrine, a main ingredient in the production of methamphetamines, available only through a prescription. Pseudoephedrine is a common medication for allergy and cold symptoms, available over the counter at pharmacies when providing a photo identification.
Azinger has said similar bills in other states have significantly cut down the number of meth labs as meth is one of West Virginia's leading drug problems.
"If I helped get that bill passed, I would be satisfied," he said.
Azinger has been thankful to the voters who have supported him over the years.
"Their support has been critical," he said. "It has been an honor to serve for 20 years. I never thought I would be doing this for this long."
Azinger said he still has about a year of work left to do as part of the House of Delegates and wants to be available to his constituents to come to him with concerns.
"If I can help them, I would be glad to do it," he said.
Greg Smith, chairman of the Wood County Republican Party, spoke with Azinger Thursday about his plans.
"I thanked him for his decades of service," Smith said. "He has been active in the party, even before he was elected to the House of Delegates."
Smith said Azinger put the people of West Virginia first and has served them well over the years.
"If we had more like Tom, we would have turned things around a long time ago," Smith said. "We hate to see him go."
Jane Burdette, chairwoman of the Wood County Democratic Party, wished Azinger well in his retirement, having known him and his family for years.
With Azinger's departure, more people might consider a run, she said.
"This might really open the field to have someone step forward," Burdette said.
Incumbents Bill Anderson, R-Wood, 8th District; Anna Border, R-Wood, 9th District; and Dan Poling, D-Wood, 10th District, have all filed to run for re-election. The 10th District has three seats held by Azinger, Poling and Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood.
Ellem said he has not decided about whether to run for another term. He said he is discussing the matter with his family and will be making his decision soon.
Filing runs to Jan. 25.
New candidates who recently filed to run for the House are Republicans Mike Azinger and John Kelly, who are running for seats in the 10th District.
Mike Azinger, 48, Willowbrook Drive, Parkersburg, is Tom Azinger's son.
"I have always been a big lover of my home state and Wood County," he said. "I am excited to jump into this race and help the citizens of Wood County."
Tom Azinger said his son has run many of his campaigns over the years.
"He is astute on what to do," he said. "This will not be his first rodeo."
Mike Azinger said he has always loved politics and his father is a regular sounding board for many of his ideas and a source of good advice.
"I look to him," the younger Azinger said.
Kelly, who is serving as a member of Parkersburg City Council, said he is running on a platform of job retention and creation, education, fair taxation and veterans affairs. He said he plans to fight the federal EPA on its "war on coal" while supporting development of the Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas deposits.
While the state has some of the highest taxes in the nation, the state ranks among the lowest in annual incomes, Kelly said.
"We need to better balance taxes versus income," he said.