Eltife bids farewell to Texas Senate

State Senator Kevin Eltife sits down with CBS19's Michael Aaron.

TYLER - As the 85th Texas Legislature begins Tuesday, District One Senator Kevin Eltife bids farewell to the State Capitol.

Eltife sat down with CBS19 for a look back at his time in the Senate and as mayor of Tyler.

After three terms, he called this exit a term limit on himself -- one that comes at the right time.

"24 years… they add up," he said.

Eltife began his political career on the Tyler City Council, where he served five years. He then spent six years as the city's mayor before heading to Austin -- where he would represent District One from 2003-2017.

"To this day I have people saying they wish I'd run again," he said. "But my heart was not in it and I always said I'm not just going to hold title. When it's time to go it's time to go."

Each legislative session for Eltife came with weeks away from his wife, two sons, and commercial development business -- key factors that led him to the November 2015 announcement that he would not seek a fourth term.

"Honestly, I did not set out for a career in public service," he said. "I wanted to serve; I love to serve, and it's been so rewarding helping others. You don't have to be in public office to help. I'll stay involved in this community. I'll stay involved in the state level, but it does not mean I have to run for office again."

As a senator, Eltife said he is most proud of legislation he passed in 2015 that legalized cannabis oil for kids with epilepsy.

A Republican -- he also made headlines for saying Texas should raise the gas tax instead of borrowing more money.

But when asked what he wants to be remembered for, Eltife said it would not be just one piece of legislation.

"It would be my independence and that I'm fair and that I work with all sides to get things done," he said. "If we're not solving problems for the constituents we're not doing our job."

He said the legislature can do a better job of solving problems for Texans.

"Have we made improvements?" he asked. "Absolutely. Are we headed in the right direction? Absolutely, but there are things that need to be solved it takes political courage to do that."

As the state's debt level steadily increased over the last decade, Eltife tried to get it on a "pay-as-you-go" plan like the one he helped implement in Tyler.

That half-cent sales tax essentially eliminated the city's debt.

"Mayor was absolutely my favorite because you could fix things, Eltife said.

As Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) prepares to take over Senate District One, Eltife leaves the seat feeling thankful for his colleagues and the constituents who supported him.

"I have truly been honored that they've allowed me to hold office and I can never get back what they've given me and I'm very appreciative of that," he said.

© 2017 KYTX-TV


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