LANCASTER — After 28 years in the state legislature, Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, is stepping down at the end of his current term.
Napier, a senior member of the Kentucky House who serves on several powerful committees including Appropriations and Revenue, announced his retirement Tuesday afternoon.
“I decided at about 3 o’clock today that I would not seek re-election,” Napier said Tuesday evening. “I’ve been tossing and turning with this for the last three months since the redistricting started.”
Under the current redistricting plan, Napier's district, which currently includes Garrard County and part of Madison, would lose the portion of Madison County it currently covers and gain Lincoln County.
But Napier said it wasn't the shift in his electorate that made him decide to step down.
Napier said he represented Lincoln County residents earlier in his career and did well in elections in the county. His decision to step down was influenced by the fact a friend of his — Garrard County Economic Development Director Nathan Mick — was planning to run if Napier didn't.
“When I found out that there was a qualified person like Nathan running if I wasn't, that made me feel a lot better,” Napier said.
Mick, who worked for Napier's office during the 2000 General Assembly, has filed as a Republican for the 36th District seat, according to Secretary of State records. Another Republican, David Meade of Stanford, also has filed for the seat, as well as one Democrat — Larry Woods of Lancaster. Woods is a former school administrator.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Mick said, “As Garrard County’s economic development director, I have focused on turning challenges into opportunities, working with local and state leaders to help move our community forward. I have known and worked with Rep. Lonnie Napier for well over a decade. I thank Rep. Napier for his service in the Kentucky State House of Representatives. He has served District 36 well, and I am grateful for his endorsement.”
Mick’s campaign treasurer will be Garrard County Judge-Executive John Wilson.
Looking back on his 28 years, Napier said he has watched the legislature transform from a group that simply “took orders from the governor's office” into a far more independent body.
Napier listed as some of his favorite accomplishments securing funding for the widening of U.S. 27 in Garrard County; improving Ky. 52 between Lancaster and Richmond; landing money to rebuild the Lancaster Grand Theater; pushing the Garrard County Judicial Center construction project “up the totem pole” so it happened sooner; and providing Garrard County Fiscal Court with extra money for blacktopping county roads.
“I guess the most pleasing thing (about being) a legislator is this: to be able to help someone who needed help,” Napier said.
Napier has gotten a lot of ink in the media in recent years for his bills aimed at requiring drug tests for recipients of state financial assistance. This is the third year Napier has proposed a similar bill, and this year's incarnation — House Bill 26 — has about 60 sponsors.
Napier hopes his legislation will pass into law this year, but if it doesn't, he's confident one of his many co-sponsors will take it up and push it again next year.
Napier said he's going to work just as hard as he always has until his term expires, and even once he steps down, it doesn't mean he's gone for good.
“I’ll never rule out that I won't run for office again,” he said.