INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, will not seek re-election next year to the Indiana House seat that he's held since 1982.
In a statement provided to The Times, the 79-year-old said even though voters in the 3rd House District gave him his greatest victory in the 2016 election, he's decided to bring an end to his weekly trips to the Statehouse.
"I believe I have fought the good fight for a long time, but the time has come to stop these frequent drives up and down I-65," Brown said.
That doesn't mean Brown's political career is over, however.
He plans to announce in coming days that he will run next year for an unspecified local government office to continue the "integrity, intensity and innovation" that he said has defined his decades of public service.
"With my health quite good, my mind still working overtime and my passion for good government still burning brightly, as I return to Lake County there is one more job I should do, God and the voters willing," Brown said.
"One more thing — with my experience and intellect I could do very well for the people — one more time."
Brown said the weight of his decision to end his 35-year tenure in the House hit him last week at the General Assembly's organizational meeting, held prior to the 10-week legislative session that begins Jan. 3.
"It was an emotional day: truly the 'best of times and the worst of times,' as Dickens would say," Brown said.
He said he felt thankfulness and gratitude, along with some pride, for his many years of service and the positive things he's accomplished at the Statehouse.
Though he also was saddened at the prospect of no longer serving beside "the best public officials you can imagine."
"There was a bittersweet realization about the fact that when the current legislative session wraps up in early 2018, I will not often pass this way again," Brown said.
At the same time, Brown indicated that after "prayerfully and thoughtfully" considering all the factors involved, and discussions with his wife, close friends and colleagues, he's confident that he is making the right decision.
Brown will long be remembered as a champion for Hoosier health, thanks to his service as chairman of the House Public Health Committee and role as top committee Democrat when a Republican led the panel.
He fought for years to pass a statewide indoor smoking ban that finally was enacted in 2012, but with some exceptions that Brown remains determined to close next year in his final legislative session.
Brown also helped create the original Healthy Indiana Plan that extended health coverage to thousands of low-income Hoosiers, a revised version of which Vice President Mike Pence, who served as Indiana governor from 2013 to 2016, may seek to implement nationwide.
In addition, Brown succeeded in directing millions of dollars awarded to Indiana through a federal legal settlement with tobacco companies to programs that assist Hoosiers in kicking addiction, combating obesity and aiding myriad other health challenges.
"I have developed and earned a reputation for a willingness to work with anyone of goodwill for any good cause and for any people in any part of the state, while always standing first and foremost for those who elected me — and keeping my principles and core beliefs intact," Brown said.
Indeed, one of Brown's most passionate beliefs is the importance of Northwest Indiana to the rest of the state.
He supported the 2005 law that established the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which has improved the viability of the Gary-Chicago International Airport to commercial air traffic, and is poised to rebirth Gary's middle class in years to come through expanded commuter rail access to Chicago.
"As a state legislator representing Gary, Hobart, Lake Station, New Chicago and portions of Porter County too, I have always looked out for, pushed for, advocated for and protected Northwest Indiana in the halls of the state capitol," Brown said.
He said he did it, not for personal gain, but because that's what his constituents expected him to do.
"Time after time over nearly four decades, the people have expressed their faith and confidence in my ability to serve as their voice in Indianapolis," Brown said.
"I am humbled by their trust in allowing me to pursue that public service through the years — a career of public service that has become my life, my passion and my skill."
Brown has not said whether he will endorse a candidate to succeed him in the Indiana House prior to the May 8 primary election or the Nov. 6 general election.
Community activist Jessica Renslow, a Gary Democrat, so far is the only declared candidate for Brown's seat.