Announcing that he would not seek reelection this year, octogenarian Wilder noted that he had spent 44 years in the chamber, 36 of them as Speaker.(He lost a narrow Senate vote in January 2007, resulting in Blountville Republican Ron Ramsey's becoming lieutenant governor.)
Here is the full text of Wilder's remarks:
"I have spent the last 44 years of my life serving as State senator. I served as speaker for 36 of those years. Over my years of service, I have watched this state grow. When I first got here, we met over there in the corner of the chamber. We did not have offices or staff. Now we have good standing committees, with well-trained staff. We have offices to perform our business in. We have committee rooms. We have a twenty-eight and one-half billion dollar budget. I am proud of the legislature, and I am proud of the Senate.
"I am proud of the difference we have made. We have done well in the three businesses of state government: roads, healthcare and education. We have some of the best roads in the nation. We did it because the Senate was the Senate. We were family. We were statesmen. We were members of parties, and we got elected, but once we got here, we were family and put the good of the state first.
"I have enjoyed these years serving. I am proud of what we have done. We made the difference. As I look at you, I see Doug Henry, who continues to be a statesman. Hes made the difference. I am proud of what we had.
"I love this state and this senate. It is more a part of me than anything else Ive known. Over the past year, I have been examining where we are now and where we have been. The differences I have been able to make and the ones the Senate can make. I have looked back on all the good times weve had and the trials we have been through. We have made it through it all. Weve made it because of people who were willing to serve. Service to government is among one of the most honorable things one can do. I have examined all that is here. I want my life to make the difference. I want to do Gods will and serve in the role His plan has for me. I am not interested in partisan politics, where one party tries to kill the other or where people vote like they are told instead of voting their conscience.
"I have decided to not seek another term as State senator. I feel the time I have spent serving has been worth the difference it has made. If my life has made any difference, it has been as State senator. It is a hard thing for me to say I am not running. Ive been running all my life. I want to thank all of you who have made the difference in my life. I want to thank those of you who have served. I want to thank the good staff we have and those who have honored me by serving me. Together we have made the difference.
"I want to encourage those of you who will stay here and those who will newly be elected to be good State senators. To be STATESMEN. To do what is good and right for this state and leave partisan politics out of it. It is destructive, not constructive. Each district in this great state needs men and women who will vote their conscience and not what some partisan politician tells them to. The good of our state depends on it.
"You are good. You have made the difference. I will miss you. But Im just a phone call away. Im available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I love you. I care about you. Make the difference with your life. Be statesmen."