Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson to retire - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson to retire

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United States Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson has announced her retirement effective February 2013.

Emerson will become President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association upon retiring from the House of Representatives.

Heartland News talked to Emerson Monday.

"I'm really going to miss my constituents, the ones who I worked with on a daily basis, thousands of our small business owners, wonderful family, friends, community leaders students, service members who really do define the character of Southern Missouri, my respect really for them is boundless, I won't ever forget the wonderful and close friendships that I've gained from my service in Congress, I have always been a champion of rural America because I really believe the vitality of it depends on the hard work and optimism of the people who make our community special," said Emerson.

She says her last day in office will be February 8, and her first day at NRECA will be February 11. She will take the role of CEO on March 1, 2013.

"The people of Southern Missouri have entrusted their voice in Congress to me for 16 years.  Serving them is a humbling experience, a great honor and a welcome challenge," Emerson said in a statement. 

"We conducted an exhaustive search to identify the very best individual to lead a great association," said NRECA Board President Mike Guidry in a press release Monday. "We're convinced we found that person in Jo Ann Emerson. Her background as a Member of Congress and a trade association executive – coupled with her extensive knowledge of the issues facing electric cooperatives and rural America – make Jo Ann eminently qualified to lead NRECA and represent the interests of our members. The respect she has from both sides of the aisle and her proven ability to bridge political and policy divides and find common ground will serve NRECA well."

The Congresswoman became emotional as she talked about the people of Southeast Missouri.

"My constituents inspire me, I have loved serving them for the last 16 years, it has been sometimes very challenging, because of the issues with which we're dealing, but the spirits of the folks I've represented, have really kept my spirits up and it's been such an honor and such a privilege, and I'll never forget it," said Emerson.

As she looked back on her career, she says certain highlights stick out, like helping build the Bill Emerson bridge, and construct Highway 60. She said she's proud of the work and service she gave to the victims of disasters like the Caruthersville tornado and the severe ice storm. She also said she wants to work to finish the Bird's Point Levee, which was destroyed during the flooding of 2011.

Emerson said her new position will be an extension of her current job since she will still be working for the people of rural America.

"These are the people who provide electricity and energy to my constituents in rural areas, the rural electric co-ops are really what builds America, you know the rural part of our country, and you know I have a deep and abiding affection for rural America, so this is just an extension of what I've been doing," said Emerson. "I just feel like it's an extension of the job I'm doing now, but you know, I feel so strongly about rural America, for creating a level playing field for those living in rural America, and by being able to work on behalf of all rural Americans, this is a pretty exciting opportunity."

She admitted her new salary will be "more generous" than what she's making currently.

Now, Missouri Governor Nixon will set a date for a special election to fill Rep. Emerson's seat.

As of Monday, his office said he has not set that date yet.

Emerson said she will not have any input in who takes her seat, but said she hopes that time from when she officially retires, to filling that seat will be short, because there are a lot of issues to take care of.

"We've got so many really tough challenges ahead of us, obviously the so called fiscal cliff, as well as local challenges, like I said earlier making sure we get the Bird's Point finished on time by the end of the year, we've got critical issues in the Mississippi River with regard to water levels and navigation, and challenges that we can't even get product up and down the river, all of these require a huge amount of attention, which is why I feel so strongly there needs to be as short of time period as possible between me leaving and the special election is called, and it's why I'm going to work until the very last minute before I have to start over at NRECA," said Emerson.

The congressional district committees for the established political parties in Missouri (Democrat, Republican, Constitution and Libertarian) would be responsible for nominating a candidate to fill the vacancy (should they choose to do so). Independent and write-in candidates would also be eligible to run.

An Emerson has represented the district since 1981.

The 62-year-old Emerson first took office in 1996, replacing her husband, longtime Republican congressman Bill Emerson, after he died of lung cancer in June 1996. She won re-election in November.

Emerson serves on the House Appropriations Committee and Chairs the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Appropriations, with oversight of the U.S. Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, and various independent government agencies, including the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the General Services Administration, and the Small Business Administration.

She has also won recognition for her work on energy issues, including the NRECA Distinguished Service Award.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation's more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.

According to the Missouri Secretary of State's office, Governor Nixon will now be in charge of setting the date for a special election.

Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution states…"when vacancies happen in the representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies."

Political parties in the area will be in charge of nominated a candidate to fill the position per Missouri Revised statute, 115.365.1(5)… "To select a candidate for representative in Congress, the nominating committee shall be the congressional district of the party."

Missouri Revised statutes, 115.373 says..."The name of a person selected by a party nominating committee as a candidate to fill an unexpired term shall be filed with the secretary of state or proper election authority no later than 5:00pm on the day which is midway between the day the election is called and election day."

According to Missouri Revised statutes, 115.369 says that "the secretary of state or the election authority shall, not later than 24 hours after receiving such notification (of a vacancy), notify the chair of the appropriate nominating committee….The chair of the nominating committee shall, as soon as possible, but in no case later than two weeks after being notified of the vacancy, call a meeting of the nominating committee for the purpose of selecting a candidate to fill the vacancy."

Copyright 2012 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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