INDIANAPOLIS – Veteran Fort Wayne Sen. Tom Wyss – best known for waging a decade-long battle to stiffen state drunken driving laws – will not seek re-election to Senate District 15.
“This experience has been one I will never forget and for that I am forever grateful,” he said. “Making the decision not to run again is difficult, but I know that this is the right time for me to retire and enjoy life outside of public service.”
Wyss, 70, will finish his term, which runs through the end of 2014.
The moderate Republican is currently chairman of the Senate Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee, and he started his political career on the Allen County Council in 1978.
Wyss began serving in the Indiana Senate in 1985 and has served on several committees including Appropriations, Local Government and Rules and Legislative Procedure.
“Over the years, Hoosiers in northeast Indiana have humbled and honored me with their unwavering support, but it’s time for me to step aside,” Wyss said. “With 36 years in elected office and 31 years serving in the military, it’s been a wonderfully rewarding career.”
He said he doesn’t know what he will do in the next chapter of life but “I’m going to have to find something, that’s for sure. I’ll take it one day at a time.”
Wyss has spearheaded other key proposals to protect Hoosiers, including co-authoring legislation to prohibit the practice of texting while driving and authored a law to require everyone in Indiana to wear a seat belt.
In 2001, after an 11-year battle, he helped pass the state’s drunken-driving law establishing .08 percent as the legal limit.
“Tom’s talent, expertise and knowledge in the Senate will be greatly missed. His passion and tenacity are his trademarks, and have allowed him to enjoy a level of success as a legislator that is quite rare,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. “Also, his expertise in Homeland Security on both the state and national level is second to none. Tom and I have been colleagues for 17 years and it has been an honor to know him, serve with him and to call him my friend.”
A Purdue University graduate, Wyss is also retired from General Electric Systems. He and his late wife, Shirley, have two daughters and five grandchildren.
Wyss’ departure opens up what could be a stiff primary fight.
Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries told The Journal Gazette in June that he was considering a run. He didn’t want to make a final discussion until talking with Wyss.
Wyss said Allen County Councilman Darren Vogt and former city councilwoman and mayoral candidate Liz Brown have also spoken to him about wanting to run for the seat.
“I am totally confident I would have won next year. I had no fear there,” he said. “I know Liz and Darren are interested and either one I would be proud and happy to have them replace me.”
Wyss thinks someone with council experience – either city or county – would be good for the seat because they will have fiscal knowledge and have grassroots political experience.
On the Democrat side, lifelong Fort Wayne resident Jack Morris has already announced he will run again. He challenged Wyss in 2010 and lost decisively.