COLUMBUS — State Representative Doug Gatewood (D.-Columbus) announced at a press conference today he will not seek reelection to the first district seat he's held for the last 14 years.
"I have had the distinct privilege of serving in Kansas Legislature for the last 14 years," Gatewood said. "Southeast Kansas has made great strides in last 14 years.
"While I do enjoy public service, it's time to do something different — I will not seek reelection."
Gatewood said he would be accepting a new position in the private sector as part of a public/private partnership he said would bring new jobs to Cherokee County and this new opportunity "will increase property tax valuation by tens of millions of dollars."
He said he would announce who his new employer is in two weeks.
Gatewood also said the decision to retire from the house was not an easy one.
"My biggest factor was what would serve the people of Cherokee County the best," he said. "Make no mistake about it, I have a special interest in Topeka and that's Cherokee County."
Gatewood noted that while he's leaving the house he's not leaving politics.
"It's not stepping out of politics," he said. "I've never considered myself a politician. This new opportunity is not stepping out but stepping deeper into politics because of the benefits we can provide."
Gatewood has a long history in state and local politics. He began the conference in the Columbus City Council Chambers, where he started his career 17 years ago, explaining how he entered politics. Gatewood said it all began after his mother tripped over a broken sidewalk and was injured.
When Gatewood called his city councilman he was told the city had more important things to do and if he didn't like it he should run for office.
So he did.
"It's been a battle most of the time," Gatewood said. "What with the political landscape."
He said during his time in the Kansas Legislature he's been involved with everything from infrastructure to methamphetamine enforcement.
"The big legislation I was involved with was methamphetamine enforcement," he said.
Gatewood said he didn't know if his district would remain one of the few Democrat seats in the Kansas House.
"I don't know know who will follow me," he said. "My seat belongs to the people, not me."
Cherokee County Republican Party Chair Lorie Johnson said she had no comment on who might run for Gatewood's now vacant seat.
"We are not ready to comment on who is running," she said. "The candidate will announce when he or she is ready."
Johnson did commend Gatewood on his years of service.
"We appreciated Representative Gatewood's service to Cherokee County," she said. "No matter what side of the aisle you are on politics can be a rough game, and I certainly want to commend his efforts on behalf of the people of Cherokee County.
"I wish him the very best as he returns to the private sector."