Georgia Sen. Ross Tolleson announces retirement, Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Longtime state Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, will retire from the Georgia Legislature as he announced Tuesday he has been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Tolleson, the 59-year-old chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee, will step down as of Nov. 1. He said his biggest priority is to confront the challenge of his diagnosis and focus on his family.

“Representing the people of Middle Georgia has been an honor and a privilege for which I will always be grateful,” said Tolleson, who has represented District 20 — Bleckley, Laurens and Pulaski counties as well as most of Houston County — since 2003.

“Serving the place your family has called home for generations is an incredible experience and there wasn’t a day I didn’t give thanks for the opportunity to strengthen our state and change lives for the better. This diagnosis was a disappointment, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge and will meet it head on.”

A member of the chamber’s senior leadership team, Tolleson was both a bane and boon to environmentalists who passed through his committee. He played a national role to colleagues on water and energy issues, including as a member of the National Conference of State Legislature’s Energy and Environment Committee as well as a member of the Southeastern Energy Board.

General Assembly leaders in both chambers lauded his work ethic and passion, saying Tolleson will be missed at the state Capitol.

“Ross is not only a respected member of the state Senate, he is an individual I am proud to call a friend,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said in a statement. “He is one of the hardest working members of the Senate and is widely known to be the first member to arrive in the morning — often before others even got out of bed. His passion for service and Middle Georgia came through in everything he did. And all of us know how deeply he loves Sally, Tripp, Ansley, and Kelly. While we will miss him here in the Senate, I know he looks forward to spending time with them.”

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, called Tolleson’s retirement “a loss for the General Assembly, but I certainly wish him well as he devotes time to his family and his health. Ross has worked hard in the Senate to make Georgia a better place to live, to work and to raise a family, and I am thankful for his service to our state.”

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