Tuesday is the first day candidates may qualify for statewide, state district, legislative, county and county district offices in the 2023 election cycle.
We’ll see a number of people officially put their names up for election, but one name we won’t see is state Rep. Jerry Darnell (R-Hernando), who over the weekend announced he would not seek re-election.
Darnell, who was an administrator in the DeSoto County School District before his successful run for office, announced his intentions in a Facebook post Sunday.
In talking with DeSoto County News Monday morning, Darnell said were it not for the issue with him and other lawmakers drawing PERS benefits while in office, he would be running to return to the office.
An Attorney General’s opinion supporting lawmakers’ ability to draw their state retirement while serving in the Legislature was turned aside in the first days of Darnell’s term in office, preventing him from receiving PERS benefits along with his legislative money.
“(Speaker of the House) Philip Gunn had told us he disagreed with that ruling and didn’t feel like that was right for us to be able to do that,” Darnell said.
Gunn said the action of the PERS Board on the issue goes against state law. In effect, Gunn said that Darnell, and three other state lawmakers, would be drawing two retirement checks, from their school or government role and from the Legislature.
Because of that, Darnell said he had to pay back two months of state retirement benefits and has not taken any further benefits since then.
As an educator, Darnell said his work to support last session’s approval of the largest teacher pay raise in state history ranks at the top of the list for accomplishments during his time in the legislature. He said he was glad the pay raise measure included teacher assistants, as well as teachers.
“I’m in education and I was very proud of that,” Darnell said. “I’m also proud of things we have done to support law enforcement, firefighters and first responders, those have been wonderful things we have done.”
Darnell has also been active in getting more transportation funding for roads and bridges and will continue to work in getting additional money to get I-55 widened, and in pursuing more broadband availability in DeSoto County and other parts of the state that now have difficulty connecting with high-speed Internet.
Before he became a legislator, Darnell spent 32 years in education as a teacher, coach and as an administrator. He spent seven years with the DeSoto County School District and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, led to him being named the assistant principal at Hope Sullivan Elementary School, where he served from 1993-1997.
Before coming to DeSoto County, Darnell served three terms as an alderman in Coldwater. He ran unsuccessfully for DeSoto County School District superintendent in 2015, the last year the office was an elected position.
Darnell was principal of Hope Sullivan Elementary School in Southaven from 1997-2006, as principal of Hernando Middle School from 2006 until 2009, and at Oak Grove Central Elementary School from 2009 until 2012. When elected to the state Legislature, Darnell was serving as Executive Director of Academic Services for the DeSoto County School District.
At this time, Darnell, who will serve out his term in this session, has not determined what he will do after the session is over.
“I do want to do something, I don’t know what it is at this time, but I do want to do something, yes,” Darnell said
Tuesday is the start of the 2023 Legislative session in Jackson.