Flaggs retiring from Legislature

Published 11:30 pm Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Longtime state Rep. George Flaggs Jr. of Vicksburg will retire from the Legislature effective July 1, he said Monday.

Flaggs, a Democrat who is leaving his state House position and his post as administrator of Warren County Youth Detention Center, confirmed Monday that he is considering a run for mayor of Vicksburg. The city’s primary elections are set for May, and the general election will be in June.

“I’m going from two jobs to one job or no jobs,” Flaggs said.

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He said he will make an announcement Jan. 12 on whether he will seek the City Hall spot.

Flaggs, 59, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1987, and only about half a dozen members of the House outrank him in seniority.

“I went into the process wanting to make a difference, and I now leave knowing I did,” Flaggs said. “Mississippi has been good to me.”

Flaggs will be at the state Capitol in Jackson for the 2013 legislative term, which runs January through April.

His current legislative term ends in 2014. By state law, Gov. Phil Bryant must set a special election to fill the remainder of the term.

Flaggs is the senior member of a trio of state legislators from Warren County. State Rep. Alex Monsour and Sen. Briggs Hopson III, both Republicans, were elected in 2008.

In his 25 years in the House, Flaggs has missed only one day, he said, and that was when he was traveling to Virginia on state business.

He currently is chairman of the House Corrections Committee and has been chairman of the Justice and Banking committees. Flaggs sees his career in politics as a success.

“I think I protected Warren County and kept by my commitment to not raise taxes,” Flaggs said.

He said he was able to learn aspects of government from each of the five governors — both Democrats and Republicans — he has served under.

Each governor from Ray Mabus to Phil Bryant has offered a set of unique skills from which Flaggs has drawn inspiration, he said.

“I’ve never had a governor I couldn’t call on the phone,” Flaggs said.

Before the end of his tenure, Flaggs said, he plans to continue working to reform the state’s prison system. Since 1995, the state’s prison population has grown by 173 percent, he said.

“We could take 3,000 or 4,000 of them and put them on house arrest,” Flaggs said.

The cost of keeping an offender on house arrest is $10 per day compared with more than $42 per day to keep them in prison, he said.

A lot has been accomplished in state government in his time in Jackson, Flaggs said, but some topics have never left the realm of debate.

“I went in there in 1988 arguing about Medicare … and today we are arguing about expanding Medicare,” Flaggs said.

He said he chose to retire to be closer to home and avoid driving to Jackson so frequently. In February, his vehicle had a blown-out tire on Interstate 220 and spun several times before hitting a guardrail.

“I thought that was it,” he said. “It changed my life. I think I was saved for a reason.”

Flaggs has two children and three grandchildren.