George FlaggsLawmaker’s retirement will be a loss to state, county

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, September 29, 2012

George Flaggs gladly will give out his cellphone number to anyone who asks. It’s not a politician’s trick to convince the electorate that he is accessible — he really is accessible.

Call his number, and he answers. If he doesn’t answer, one can be assured that he is in a position where he just can’t answer the phone. A return call always comes shortly after. And it didn’t matter whether it was a reporter’s query, a thank-you call or one in disagreement, Flaggs always had an answer. An honest answer.

On Tuesday, he announced that he was retiring from the Legislature after more than 24 years in office. His departure will be a loss to the state, but especially Vicksburg. He said he will continue to serve through the 2013 legislative session and leave office on July 1.

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His experience brought with it clout. With a Republican in the Governor’s Mansion and Republicans in the majority in the House, Flaggs, a Democrat, serves as chairman of the House Corrections Committee and sits on the Appropriations, Banking and Financial Services, Constitution, Legislative Budget, Public Health and Human Services and Rules committees.

What truly separates him, though, is his unique ability in a politically toxic world to “reach across the aisle” and “work with the other side.” Flaggs prided himself on being a fiscal conservative, and those traits were not lost on colleagues.

Marc Formby, a Republican from Picayune and longtime colleague of Flaggs’, said, “He and I have found ourselves on opposing sides of some issues, but George has a conservative bent on fiscal matters and isn’t afraid to stand up and say that, even if it goes against some of his colleagues. He has managed to work with both sides of the aisle and, hence, he still has a place at the leadership table, no matter who is in power.”

Flaggs has intimated he might seek the mayor of Vicksburg post, but will not make an announcement until Jan. 12, he said. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Vicksburg in 1997. Gov. Phil Bryant will order a special election to fill Flaggs’ post, but until his resignation becomes official, a date has yet to be set.

His replacement in the House will have tremendous shoes to fill. It is the hope that whoever is elected to that post will carry the same qualities — being accessible, working across the aisle and carrying the torch of fiscal conservatism — no matter to which party the winner belongs.

“I feel like I’ve done some good, left the state better than when I found it,” Flaggs said.

We whole-heartedly agree.