Rural lawmaker Gerald Greene is a political anomaly

Ed Rynders

ALBANY — State House District 152 Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, will announce later today that he is resigning form his seat in the House after moving to St. Simons Island.

A 17-year House veteran, Rynders revealed to The Albany Herald that he has health concerns that are part of a “perfect storm” of issues that led him to make the decision to step down from his seat in the House with a year left on his current two-year term.

“My wife, Jane, and I had already been talking about what we would do when we retire, and two of the places we talked about were the Georgia Coast and Athens,” Rynders said during a lengthy Thursday-morning conversation. “The local (Lee County) school system also made some personnel changes that would have made my daughter (Megan Ealam) one of my wife’s supervisors (at Twin Oaks Elementary School), which had the possibility of being awkward.

“Plus, and not a lot of people know this, I had a heart attack in June and needed three stents. I had health issues going back to the last session of the Legislature — I even missed a couple of votes because of these issues, which I rarely do — and knew something was wrong. I’m not one who shares my personal issues with a lot of people, but I was doing some cleaning (on rental property) while Jane was out of town and it grabbed me. I got in my truck, tried to catch my breath, drove home and went to bed. But (the symptoms) did not go away.”

Rynders says he finished a campaign disclosure form due the next day before driving himself to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany.

“I called (now former Phoebe CEO) Joel Wernick and told him I thought I was having a heart attack,” Rynders continued. “I managed to walk in, and within a minute of getting there they had me hooked up.”

Rynders said he’s been pulled in opposite directions as he’s pondered his decision to retire.

“I’ve been kind of surprised at the, what I guess you could call, pushback as I’ve talked with people about this decision,” he said. “Several have encouraged me to finish my term, and I don’t ever want to be seen as a quitter. But my health and my family’s future have to be my No. 1 priorities.

“But going through the voting machine issue during the last session required a lot of ‘heavy lifting’ on my part, and with redistricting coming up, I knew there was going to be a great deal of pressure once again. In the end, I look at the distinguished careers of two men I admire, Doug Everett and Johnny Isakson, and one thing I took from conversations with them is ‘It’s OK to walk away.’”

As chairman of the House’s Governmental Affairs Committee and secretary of the Appropriations and Health and Human Services committees, Rynders became something of an anomaly in the House. He became one of the few rural — and even fewer southwest Georgia — representatives to wield a considerable level of power in the Legislature. He also served on the House Transportation Committee, was chairman of the One Georgia Overview Committee, was an ex officio member of the Ways and Means Committee, and served on the Rural Economic Development, Redistricting, and House Republican Politics committees.

Rynders said he’s looking, health permitting, at doing consulting work in areas such as education, health care, rural economic development, local government and the not-for-profit sector after stepping down from his House seat.

When Rynders sends a resignation letter he has written to Gov. Brian Kemp, Kemp will set a date for a special election to complete the year left on Rynders’ current term.

“I don’t want anyone to ever question my loyalty to southwest Georgia,” the resigning representative said. “Southwest Georgia has been my home all my life, and although we have our problems, we can’t give up hope.”

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