JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - There’s a new number two guy in the Mississippi Senate.
Senator Gray Tollison was sworn in as the new Senate Pro Tempore for the Mississippi Senate Friday morning.
A new pro-tem is not the norm for the last year in a four-year term, but a series of events led to the role change.
Senator Terry Burton, who was pro-tempore at the time, was charged with a second offense DUI last month, which led to a five minute speech and apology Tuesday.
The Mississippi Senate was taking nominations after Senator Burton resigned from the role.
“During this next few months as we finish out this term, I’m turning it over to God and I’m turning it over to the professionals I’m working with to deal with to deal with my personal issues, demons, human frailties, whatever you want to call them,” said Burton on Tuesday.
Senate Tollison is currently in his sixth and final term as a lawmaker.
“The fact that I’m not running for re-election, I will have plenty of time to dedicate to this office and will not be preoccupied with a re-election, so I thought it made sense and the members and Lt. Governor felt the same way and I greatly appreciate that,” said Tollison.
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves issued a statement on the election saying:
“Sen. Tollison’s election by his peers to this leadership position shows the deep respect senators have for him. His 24 years of experience in the Legislature and his passion for good public policy make him the right fit to serve as the ‘Senators’ Senator.’”
Governor Phil Bryant also tweeted his congratulations to Senator Tollison.
Tollison’s time in the legislature has allowed him to create alliances on both sides of the aisle. He started his legislative service as a Democrat and switched to the GOP in 2011. Both a Republican and Democrat spoke on his behalf for nominations to the pro-tem role.
“I think it’s, as people have said, the Senator’s Senator role and you just kind of be a spokesperson for the Senate, but also if the Lt. Governor is out of state you go into that role for a time," noted Tollison. "You just mind over the Senate and business of the Senate.”
And it’s more than just the title, Tollison will hold considerable power with his new role plus remaining as Senate Education Chairman.