January 9, 2019 10:31:21 AM
Mike Tagert is not a term limits advocate, with one exception: His own.
Tagert, of Starkville, has confirmed he will not seek re-election as the state's Northern District Highway Commissioner. At the end of the current term, he will have served 10 years in that role.
"There's not any one reason," Tagert said Tuesday of his decision. "Overall, this is what's best for me and our family. I'm not necessarily a term limits advocate, but I thought in this case, it's just time to move on."
Tagert, a former TVA executive who won the special election for the commissioner position in 2011, ran in a special election in 2015 to fill the District 1 U.S. House of Representatives seat created by the death of Alan Nunnelee. He lost to Trent Kelly in a nonpartisan primary.
While he has not ruled out running for office again, Tagert said he would keep his options open.
"I don't have any immediate plans whatsoever," he said. "I have the rest of the term to fill out. Beyond that, I don't know. You never say never, but I have no plans for public office at this point."
Tagert leaves the position after some contentious years in the role as the Legislature cut funding for the state's department of transportation and launched a failed effort to limit the authority of the three-person commissioners' board.
On Friday, Central District Commissioner Dick Hall, easily the most vocal critic of the Legislature among the three commissioners, announced he would not seek another term after 20 years, expressing his dissatisfaction with the Legislature's unwillingness to properly fund MDOT.
Tagert did not openly criticize the Legislature but did acknowledge his job has become more difficult in recent years.
"We've done some really good work, I think, some unceremonious work," Tagert said. "What I mean by that is that we've taken a department with limited resources and stretched them in the best way possible for the public. We've had to make some hard decisions, but I'm proud of the work we've done."
Qualifying for state and county offices began last week and will continue through the end of March. To date, few candidates have qualified.
State-level candidates qualify through their parties. While the state Democratic Party does not release the names of candidates until the end of qualifying, the state Republican Party's website shows that only two of the nine Golden Triangle area seats have candidates who have qualified so far.
District 37 Rep. Gary Chism (Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay counties) qualified for his sixth term while District 15 Sen. Gary Jackson (Oktibbeha, Webster, Choctaw, Montgomery counties) will seek his fifth term.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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