NEW HAVEN, Ind. (WANE) - Phyllis Pond has been a fixture in the Indiana Statehouse for decades. Now after 35 years of public service, she has decided not to run for re-election in 2014.
"I hate to give it up, but I knew I had to do it sometime," Pond, the Republican representative for the 85th House District, said.
In the last six months, Pond said she's developed some lung problems and now uses oxygen. At her doctor's recommendations, she won't run for what would have been her 19th term.
"Probably better not to be down there with all the germs and shaking hands with people and breathing that air at the Statehouse," Pond said.
Pond, 82, was first elected to the Statehouse in 1978. She's fought for reform in many areas over the years, but her passion was with education. She was a kindergarten teacher in East Allen County Schools before she ran for office and spearheaded lowing class size in K-3 to 18 students per teacher.
"She would be bipartisan. She would work on things she thought were good for her district or the state," Win Moses said.
Moses, a democrat, served as the representative for the 81st House District from 1992 to 2012.
"When she spoke, people listened. It's been a wonderful 20 years to have spent with her," he said. "After they've served that long, they have a history and an integrity of the institution. That's hard to replace. She brought with it a calmness and a kindness and an appreciation for people above and beyond politics."
Allen County Republican Party Chair Steve Shine said in his 20 years leading the party, he's never heard negative comments about Pond.
"It's very rare when someone escapes the wrath of voters, another party, your own party and that was Phyllis Pond," Shine said. "It's not just that she's Teflon, it's that she's beloved."
Shine called Pond's retirement sad and glorious.
"Sad because we won't have her expertise, her knowledge of state law and her ability to get things done in the state legislature. Glorious because it's a celebration of decades of service to people in northeast Indiana, in particular in New Haven," Shine said.
While she was in the statehouse, she'd try to help freshman legislators learn the ropes. One key lesson is to listen to both sides of an argument and never promise to vote a certain way.
"Listen more than you talk. You're not going down there to change the system to begin with. First you have to build up a basis and an expertise," Pond said.
Reflecting on her years of service, Pond said she loved voting the most.
"Being able to listen in on committees and decide for myself whether that's best for my constituents and then voting on that," she said.
Pond chose to make her decision not to run again public now so people who want to run for the seat will have time to prepare campaigns. Five or six people have already expressed interest to Pond, but she does not plan to endorse anyone.
The strongly republican district will likely see a packed primary. Pond's advice for her successor is to listen and learn.
"And remember what you learn. You may not need it this year, but you may need it in the future," she said.
Right now, Pond hopes to finish out the rest of her current term. But, she and her doctor will make a final decision at the end of this year. If she does leave her office before the term is up, a caucus of precinct committeemen will nominate a person to finish the term.
While Pond will miss the job she loves, she said won't miss the long drives to Indianapolis every week. When asked if it will be odd to vote for her seat without her name on the ballot, she laughed and said, " I may just leave that vacant."
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