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Holland changes mind, won’t retire

STEVE HOLLAND

STEVE HOLLAND

By BOBBY HARRISON / Daily Journal

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who has represented Lee County in the state House since 1984, in the end was not ready to walk away from the Mississippi Legislature.

The colorful Holland, who surprisingly announced his likely retirement Wednesday during a two-day special session called to work on budget issues, reversed course Thursday and announced he would continue to represent District 16.

“I have received literally hundreds of pleas from not only my constituents in Lee County but around the state begging me to remain for a duration,” Holland said in a statement released late Thursday. “My business is very demanding and the juggling act to be a Thomas Jefferson legislator and a full time, hands-on owner and operator of three funeral homes is a challenge.

“However, there’s still work to do. My passion is still extraordinary and my love for the least, last and most vulnerable amongst us is a part of my spiritual mission and journey. Today, I postpone my retirement and ask that you continue to pray for the well-being of our great state and its leaders and my continuing service as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives.”

Holland said he was approached by people at the cemetery asking him to change his mind.

Holland, known for his  colorful or often off-color language, submitted hand-written resignation letters on notecard-sized personal stationery on Wednesday, announcing his resignation for 4:59 p.m. Thursday.

But he told House Clerk Andrew Ketchings to wait before filing the resignation until he made a final decision late Thursday afternoon.

He made that decision – to stay.

The 60-year-old Holland surprisingly announced his now short-lived retirement from the well of the House on Wednesday during a special session called by Gov. Phil Bryant where he requested and received authority to transfer additional money from the state’s reserve funds to deal with budget shortfalls during the final days of the fiscal year.

Holland cited as the reason for the retirement announcement the demands of his business.

The simple resignation letter appeared at the time to end the political career of one of Lee County’s most vocal and visible politicians.

Before the Democrats lost control of the House in 2012, he served as chair of the Public Health Committee as one of the key allies of then-Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi. He played a key role in adding mental health facilities throughout the state, including in Tupelo.

Previously, under the speakership of then-Speaker Tim Ford, D-Baldwyn, he was chair of the Agriculture Committee and often speaks fondly of the Holland family farm in Plantersville.

Sometimes his off-color humor and at times “passionate” defense of his political positions would mask his effectiveness as a legislator.

“I don’t know how history will record me, but I have been on the job every day,” he said on Wednesday. “And I have been passionate every day.” He refers to himself as “an out-of-the closest liberal”, though he ran and lost a special election for the House District 16 seat in 1982 as a Republican.

“I couldn’t even get my grandmother to vote for me” as a Republican, he recalled.

Members from both sides of the aisle said Wednesday that they hoped he changed his mind.

“I hope he serves out at least his term,” said Rep. Jody Steverson, Ripley. “…His knowledge of the legislative process is amazing. He is such a vocal part of the Mississippi House of Representatives.”

Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis, the House minority leader, let out a loud yes when told Holland had changed his mind.

“Steve Holland is such an integral part of the Mississippi House of Representatives and certainly one of the key members of the Democratic caucus,” Baria said. “I rely on his expertise and his ability to turn a phrase and spread oil on the water every single day in the Mississippi House of Representatives.”

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