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‘It was time to go’ Pinion reflects on service to area

‘It was time to go’ Pinion reflects on service to area

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 7:23 pm

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter Outgoing state Rep. Phillip Pinion — he uses the word “retired,” noting it has such a pleasant ring — asserts there comes a time when you know in your heart it’s time to go. And that’s how it was with him in January 2008. Soothsayers and pundits had predicted a vigorous and aggressive political year for the nation. It was a presidential election year as well as a congressional election year. It was also election year in most of the 50 states in the union. Newcomers to the political wars could toss their hats in the ring, and many did. Incumbent state representatives and state senators could declare their candidacies for re-election or throw in the towel. Such was the case with 56-year-old Phillip Pinion, first elected state representative of House District 77 in 1988 and re-elected time and again. For 20 years, Pinion had weathered the political wars, winning the support and confidence of constituents and the respect and trust of his peers at Legislative Plaza. Over the years, he served on various committee assignments in the Tennessee House of Representatives. But the most important one came in 2002 when House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh appointed him chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee. In January 2008, he could look back with a feeling of having accomplished something, having made his mark, in the House of Tennessee lawmakers. On the other hand, he could look ahead, and he was less than enthusiastic about running for re-election and waging yet another campaign. It was decision time. He didn’t make a decision overnight. In fact, he struggled with the pros and cons of it for weeks. At long last, he reached a decision, one he expresses with just a few words. “It was time for me to go home,” he said. And on April 8, 2008, he went public with it, saying he would not be a candidate for re-election and that he would retire when his term expired on Nov. 4. You know the rest of the story. Three Democrats — Judy Barker, Larry Bennett and Jerry Grady — and two Republicans — Shelly Arnett and Bill Sanderson — joined the political fray. On Nov. 4, Election Day, the voters spoke via secret ballot. Mrs. Barker emerged as the winner. In looking back, Pinion said his decision not to give it a go just one more time was a good decision. “It would have been very difficult for me to have gone back, what with the Republicans taking control,” he said. “Having served in leadership positions as long as I did and then be moved to a small office would have been hard to take. “I worked very hard for West Tennessee. There are some at Nashville who say, ‘Let’s put an end to the West Tennessee mafia.’ Well, maybe they have. East Tennessee is taking over. But for 40 years, West Tennessee dominated the Legislature. There were people like John Wilder, Jimmy Naifeh, Ned McWherter, Milton Hamilton and later Craig Fitzhugh and Randy Rinks and myself. All of them were in leadership positions. That’s why we’ve got the best roads in the state right here in West Tennessee. I’m proud of that. “I’m also proud of the economic development we worked on, such as the riverport at Cates Landing and I-69. “I make no apologies for being from West Tennessee and working very hard over a 20-year period to make it a better place to live. I’m proud of that and I look at it with pride. “But it was the right time for me to go home.” About that retirement, Pinion said he’s at least halfway there. He’s not sitting on the front porch watching traffic whiz by. He’s not ready for those days, not yet, no way. He’s got himself a job in private industry and he’s taking business trips. You could say he’s living the good life while he can, while he can keep Father Time at arm’s length. “I’m working as a consultant for TRC Worldwide Engineering,” he said. “I’ve been everywhere. I’ve taken about 10 trips for them, working primarily in mergers and acquisitions. “Of course, I stay in touch with the folks back home, and I try to come home every weekend I can.” Published in The Messenger 12.30.08

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