One of Virginia's most powerful politicians is stepping down.
House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said Monday he will not seek re-election when his term ends in January.
House Majority Leader Kirk Cox is expected to be Howell's successor, though other Republicans may try to challenge him.
Elected as speaker in 2003, Howell helped grow a near GOP super-majority in the House thanks in part to the favorable legislative boundaries drawn during the last redistricting.
The 73-year-old has promoted conservative, business-friendly policies while helping thwart parts of three Democratic governors' agendas, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe's push to expand Medicaid.
The quick-witted speaker has not been ideologically inflexible. He helped former GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell pass tax increases to pay for a transportation-funding overhaul.
He delivered this statement Monday:
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Since the House has returned to the Morning Hour, I ask the members to indulge me a moment while I take this opportunity to share some news.
Serving in this esteemed body which is the Virginia House of Delegates for the last 30 years has been a distinct privilege. Likewise, serving as the Speaker of the House for 15 years now truly has been the greatest professional honor of my life.
While I obviously will miss all of you and while I will always look back with only fondness at every day I served here, I have decided that I will not be seeking re-election to the House.
Cessie and I are so grateful for the opportunity that we have had to serve. There truly are no words to fully describe the joy and fulfillment we have received from this incredible opportunity for public service. But, we also know there is much more joy and fulfillment to come, albeit differently and beyond Capitol Square and this body. We are blessed to have two good sons and seven energetic grandkids. We have our youth! And, we cannot wait to take some time together to travel, spend more time with our family and, frankly, just to relax together.
The House of Delegates truly is an historic institution. I love it dearly. I believe it represents the hope, enduring strength and resiliency of our exciting and ongoing experiment in representative self-government.
If America is a shining city on a hill, then our Virginia House of Delegates is the brightest light atop the highest tower.
As a Delegate and as Speaker, I always have tried to serve in a manner worthy of that stature.
I believe the Office of Speaker rises above partisan politics. This is an institutional role, with constitutional and other attendant obligations that transcend the fractured moments that often drive our politics.
I also always have tried to be open, accessible and, most of all, fair.
When I became Speaker in 2003, I pledged to lead this historic chamber with the honor and integrity it deserves and to faithfully uphold the dignity of this constitutional office.
Throughout my tenure, when faced with difficult decisions that go along with this Office, I have strived to reflect those enduring values. And, in practice, I always sought to put what’s good for the whole institution, and all that it represents, ahead of any other interest.
I pray you will judge my time as Speaker on that more than anything.
When I accepted the Speaker’s gavel, I reminded myself and others that what kind of people we are, and how we treat one another, is as important as the bills we pass and the laws we make. May we never lose sight of this worthy aspiration.
Like you, I understand that our mission is so much larger than ourselves. Ultimately, our purpose is continuing to fulfill the four-century-old mission of Virginia – preserving human freedom and advancing opportunities for all.
So today, I hope you join me in taking pride in everything that this body – Republicans and Democrats working together more often than not – has accomplished over the last 15 years. The House of Delegates has been a stable and consistent factor in reforming and improving state government for the past decade. Our shared enterprises, through difficult and good times alike, has made our Commonwealth stronger and more prosperous. And together, I believe we have enhanced the lives and livelihoods of our fellow citizens we are so privileged to represent and serve.
Now and always, I am optimistic that this House – the oldest continuous representative law-making body in the New World – will continue to inspire and fulfill the enormous potential of Virginia’s bright future.
So, I will close by saying from the bottom of my heart, thank you!
I am so grateful for the trust and faith you placed in me 15 years ago. And, I appreciate that you have continued to maintain that trust in me. The many friendships that have made here over almost 30 years are worth more than any bill I have ever championed or passed. I am proud to know you all and honored to serve with each of you.
All of you are very talented individuals and highly capable leaders. You are valuable parts of something much bigger than any one of us. So, it is easier for me to make this announcement now and to leave next year knowing that this institution will continue to thrive.
Thank you. May God Bless you. May God Bless our great country and wonderful Commonwealth. And, may God continue to Bless this historic House of Delegates.