12/07/07 — John Kerr not seeking re-election, will finish out term

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John Kerr not seeking re-election, will finish out term

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 7, 2007 1:45 PM

Sen. John Kerr, D-Wayne, announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election in 2008 after serving more than two decades in the state legislature.

"Twenty years is a pretty long pull," Kerr said. "It's been a real honor to represent and help people. I've worked hard, and I've enjoyed it, but everything has to come to an end."

Kerr, 71, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1986, where he served three terms.

He then was elected to the state Senate in 1992, where he plans to finish out his eighth term.

While in the House, Kerr served as chairman of various subcommittees of the Finance Committee and on several committees focusing on legal issues, such as the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Referenda and the Judiciary III Committee.

Currently, he is co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the Revenue Laws Study Committee, and a member of numerous others, including Judiciary II and Commerce.

"John Kerr is one of the best and most dedicated public servants our state has ever seen," Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said in a written statement. "To say John is unique is a huge understatement. He works so tirelessly and with so much selflessness on behalf of the people he represents.

"We all rely on his leadership and expertise -- particularly in matters of finance and rural infrastructure needs. John has been a good friend to me and to the Senate, and he will be sorely missed in the legislature."

Among Kerr's areas of focus have been the need to increase eastern North Carolina's infrastructure, such as water, sewer, natural gas and roads.

Recently, he has also been a champion for the construction of the new Cherry Hospital and was vocal in his support of getting the Interstate 795 designation for the stretch of U.S. 117 and U.S. 264 between Wilson and Goldsboro.

In addition, as the senator for part of Pitt County -- as well as all of Greene -- Kerr has been advocate for East Carolina University, helping to push through funding for its recently approved dental school.

"I think Sen. Kerr has done a good job for not only the people of Wayne County and the rest of his senatorial district, but also for eastern North Carolina," Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, said. "He's had a very long and distinguished career. This is a time we'll all face sometime, trying to decide whether we want to continue in what is a very tough job that demands a lot of time and attention.

"I appreciate Sen. Kerr for the work that he has done. We're from different political parties, but we have seen eye to eye on some things, and I think we've both had the best interests of the state in mind."

For Kerr, the bottom line has always been his constituents.

"My father and grandfather taught me that you've got to help people and that's what I've tried to do," he said.

And that's what he plans to continue doing -- just not from his office in Raleigh once the short session is over sometime next summer.

"We in eastern North Carolina are behind, and we need to get caught up," he said. "I'm still going to be active. We've got a lot to do.

"I'll be there to back up and I'll be there to raise heck if it doesn't go quite right. I've got more good ideas right now than ever befor,e and you'll be hearing about them. I'm going to be a player."

But, even though he's still planning to work at his downtown Goldsboro law office, Warren, Kerr, Walston, Taylor & Smith, he's also hoping to spend more time with his wife, Sandra, his two sons and his four grandchildren.

"If you do this thing right and really help people, it takes a lot of effort, and my wife and family have been very supportive. But I'll be 72 soon and I need to spend more time with my grandchildren. I need to shift back to my roots and my family," he said. "I don't guess any time is really the right time, but I've been thinking about this and I just thought this was a good time.

"I'm certainly going to miss it, but I'd rather get out now and feel good about it."

Helping him make that decision, he added, is the fact that there are several qualified people interested in his seat this time.

One who has already announced his intention to run is Democrat Donald Davis, mayor of Snow Hill and chairman of the First Congressional District Democratic Party.

"There are some people interested in being in the Senate, so this looked like a logical point," Kerr said. "I feel it's time for somebody else to take some of the responsibility.

"I think you'll always find people that will do good."