Stone, 51, is stepping down, effective Monday, to become manage of the Holly Springs Utility Department. Since the position is in the executive branch of city government, Stone is prevented constitutionally from continuing to serve in the Legislature.
“I am going to miss it,” Stone said Tuesday morning. “I have enjoyed serving in the Legislature. I have especially enjoyed serving as minority leader.”
Stone, whose tenure in the Senate began in 2008, was elected minority leader for the current four-year term that began in January 2016. Derrick Simmons of Greenville is the vice chair and will assume the lead role for at least the time being.
Before being elected to the Senate, Stone was elected twice as mayor of Ashland, where he oversaw that Benton County municipality’s utilities.
“I have experience running a utility,” he said. “I think I can make a difference” as manger of the Holly Springs Utility Department.
“Plus, I can be at home more.”
The Holly Springs utility is considered a large one for the Marshall County town of about 7,500. The department provides water, gas and electricity in parts of a five-county, two-state region serving more than 11,000 customers.
Stone said he and Holly Springs Mayor Kelvin Buck, a former member of the state House, had been in talks for several months about him assuming the role. Stone said the post has been vacant for about 10 months and that Buck had been overseeing the department himself.
Stone first was elected to represent District 2, which consisted of all of Marshall and the less-populated Benton counties and a portion of Tippah.
But in redistricting, the Republican majority collapsed Stone’s district. He opted to move from Ashland to Holly Springs, which also was in his old district, and run in the newly formed District 10, which consisted of Marshall and Tate counties.
Then-Sen. Steve Hale, D-Senatobia, filed a lawsuit questioning Stone’s residency prior to the 2015 elections. A Hinds Count judge found that Stone did move to Holly Springs early enough to meet the residency requirements, and Stone went on to defeat Hale in the Democratic primary.
Gov. Phil Bryant will call a special election to fill the vacancy – likely for Nov. 7. Legislative special elections are non-partisan with all candidates running on the same ballot with no party identification.
Republicans currently have a 32-20 advantage in the Senate.
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