FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Indiana State Senator Tom Wyss (R-Fort Wayne) will not seek re-election after serving 28 years in the Indiana Senate. Wyss has served the state senate's 15th district since 1985.
Senator Wyss said his 36 years in public office and 31 years in the military have provided for a rewarding career, according to quotes in Thursday's press release.
"I'd been having thoughts about this for the last couple of years," Wyss told NewsChannel 15 Thursday evening. "It's one of those things where you ask, when is the best time to get out. It gives other people a chance to be an as good, or even better, Senator than I was."
Wyss said he had gotten countless compliments after making the announcement. "Some telling me they're happy for me and some telling me they're sad that I'm leaving," he said. "They felt I still had something to offer to the state."
“Over the years, Hoosiers in northeast Indiana have humbled and honored me with their unwavering support, but it’s time for me to step aside,” Wyss said. “With 36 years in elected office and 31 years serving in the military, it’s been a wonderfully rewarding career.”
Wyss started his political career serving on the Allen County Council in 1978, a position he has held ever since, and was elected to the Indiana Senate in 1985. He has served on many committees including Appropriations, Local Government and Rules and Legislative Procedure. He currently serves as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee.
Wyss' military service started in 1966 when he enlisted in the Indiana Air National Guard. He retired in 1997 as a lieutenant colonel. The National Guard awarded Wyss with the Charles Dick award in 2013 for his contributions to Hoosier veterans.
Wyss, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee, started his political career on the Allen County Council in 1978 and has held public office ever since. He began serving in the Indiana Senate in 1985 and has served on several committees including Appropriations, Local Government and Rules and Legislative Procedure.
"Tom was, and continues to be, a very strong leader in the Indiana Senate," Steve Shine, the chair of the Allen County Republican Party, said. "He's not only respected statewide but also nationally. He serves on national committees regarding security of our nation. I think that's a testament to his knowledge and commitment for the safety and betterment of individuals."
Shine, who has served as the county chair since 1993, said Wyss, while staying positive, had reservations about him leading the party in Allen County that year. However, those concerns were quickly wiped away, as Shine and Wyss worked together to help Wyss get re-elected in 1994. The two have been great friends ever since.
Wyss enlisted in the Indiana Air National Guard in 1966 and retired in 1997 as a lieutenant colonel. He has drawn from his military background in a variety of roles in the Senate. He created the Indiana Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs, which he chaired for several years. In addition, Wyss authored several measures to assist Hoosier veterans including a resolution urging the Indiana Department of Transportation to name part of I-69 the “Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Memorial Highway” and a new law to make it easier for service members to apply their military skills to an Emergency Medical Services license. In 2007, he authored Indiana’s most comprehensive military veterans’ benefits legislation.
“This experience has been one I will never forget and for that I am forever grateful.” Wyss said. “Making the decision not to run again is difficult, but I know that this is the right time for me to retire and enjoy life outside of public service.”
Wyss has also spearheaded key proposals to protect Hoosiers. He fought tirelessly to keep Indiana roads safe by co-authoring legislation to prohibit the dangerous practice of texting while driving and authored a law to require everyone in Indiana to wear a seat belt. In 2001, after an 11-year battle, he helped pass the state’s drunk driving law establishing .08 as the legal limit.
Wyss told NewsChannel 15 he was also proud to have been a second author of a bill that banned texting while driving.
"We're still having a number of accidents that way, unfortunately," Wyss said. "Sometimes it takes some time for the public to understand, accept, and follow through on those laws."
Wyss was recently recognized by the Indiana National Guard and awarded the 2013 Charles Dick award for his contributions to Hoosier veterans. In June, the Indiana Disabled American Veterans named Wyss “Legislator of the Year,” and in July, the Indiana American Legion presented him the Distinguished Public Service Award.
Wyss has also been heavily involved in his community. He is a Board Member for the Hoosier Burn Camp, and the Northeast Indiana Burn Foundation. He serves on the Board of the Fort Wayne Medical Education Advisory and is a Founding Member of the Fort Wayne Crime Stoppers Advisory Board. In honor of his late wife, he also is a Founding Member of the Indiana Breast Cancer Awareness Trust.
"Tom’s talent, expertise and knowledge in the Senate will be greatly missed. His passion and tenacity are his trademarks, and have allowed him to enjoy a level of success as a legislator that is quite rare," Senate President Pro Tem David Long said. “Also, his expertise in Homeland Security on both the state and national level is second to none. Tom and I have been colleagues for 17 years and it has been an honor to know him, serve with him and to call him my friend.”
A Purdue University graduate, Wyss is also retired from General Electric Systems in 2000. He and his late-wife Shirley have two daughters and five grandchildren.
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