Jimmy Naifeh discusses career, future in one-on-one interview - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Naifeh discusses career, future in one-on-one interview

Jimmy Naifeh Jimmy Naifeh

(WMC-TV) - It's the end of an era for one West Tennessee politician.

After nearly 40 years in state government, Jimmy Naifeh announced late last week that he wouldn't run for re-election.

For years, Naifeh was considered one of the most powerful men in Tennessee politics.

"When you get in a leadership position, it is your responsibility to lead and if you shirk your responsibilities, you'll let yourself down and let the people down who gave you that responsibility," said Speaker Emeritus Naifeh.

The late Tennessee governor Ned McWherter was Naifeh's friend and mentor.

He shared some sage advice with Naifeh about the end of his political career.

"He said ‘Jimmy, you'll know when the time comes for you to get out, you'll just know,' and I did know that," Naifeh said.

The former Democratic floor leader and House majority leader, Jimmy Naifeh became Speaker of the House in 1990.

He was the longest serving House Speaker in the state and nation - serving in that role for 18 years.

Some feel Naifeh was one of the most partisan speakers in state history.

But Naifeh said he hopes to be remembered as someone who worked across the political aisle for the betterment of Tennessee.

"Power and influence are only effective if used properly, if used wrong, you will not be an effective leader," said Naifeh.

Naifeh said he's most proud of his work in bringing a college campus to his hometown of Covington.

He also prides himself in passing legislation creating before and after school childcare, strengthening punishment for child abusers in Tennessee, and passing legislation giving women more time off for maternity leave.

Jimmy Naifeh will be the state representative until the November election.

Candidates vying for Naifeh's seat in the Tennessee House have another month to qualify to run in the November election.

Naifeh said he doesn't know what his plans are for the future.

He plans to keep a home in Nashville to be close to his children and grandchildren.

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