Nine-and-a-half years ago, I announced my intention to run for Governor of Arkansas. This next week, for the first time since June of 2005, I will not be pursuing or executing this job.
It has been the most gratifying responsibility I've ever had in public service, and a satisfying end to a 32-year career in elected office. As I leave, let me take one more opportunity to say thank you for this special privilege.
I've maintained for years that being Governor is the best job you can have in politics. You are generally free of the day-to-day gridlock and thick bureaucracy of Washington, D.C. There are more opportunities to meet, and speak directly with, the constituents you serve. You can accomplish more with policy, and be an ambassador for the State that you love.
There are, of course, difficult times, when the job brings you a unique perspective on life and death. I will never forget the phone calls to and conversations with widows and family members of soldiers killed in action overseas. There were the warrants for executions that I signed, even though the courts stopped all executions during my two terms. Too many times, I witnessed the aftermath of deadly tornadoes and floods, visiting families who had lost too much and admiring their resilience and will to recover.
The most unexpected part of being Governor has not come from policy work or changes in the economy or dealing with unanticipated emergencies. It has been the magnitude of events and interaction outside of the Capitol that surprised Ginger and me. We have enjoyed it, but did not know going in how much time it would require, or how many new friends we would make.
We, and especially Ginger, were determined from the outset to make the Governor's Mansion more accessible – truly the People's House. Eight years and 1,500 events later, more people have definitely had the chance to enjoy this state treasure. There have been so many events for so many worthy causes, and there are fond memories we will carry with us long after we’ve moved on.
So as I leave office, I say thank you, Arkansas. Thank you for the thousands of handshakes, hugs, fist bumps and encouraging words throughout the past eight years.
While I am finished serving in elective office, I'm not leaving Arkansas, either. I plan on enjoying my retirement, but I will also continue working to change the outdated image that too many still carry about our State, both here and beyond our borders. We have many reasons to celebrate our State, and Arkansas has not yet reached her full potential.
I say farewell as your Governor, but not goodbye as your friend and fellow Arkansan. Let's continue to move Arkansas forward, together.