Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, today announced he is retiring from the state House of Representatives District 52 seat– and lobbed a couple of political grenades in the process. The chairman of the House Ethics Committee, who assumed office in 2001, made a surprise announcement that he is retiring at the end of his term, withdrawing as a candidate in the May 24 Republican primary for the seat and is endorsing candidate Deborah Silcox over candidate Graham McDonald.
He also singled out McDonald and Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul for a “plot against him” that led to his decision.
“Among my many accomplishments, I have been most proud in helping create the City of Sandy Springs and nurture its growth. That is why recent ugly political developments in our community have been so painful,” Wilkinson said in a media release. “Sandy Springs was created to bring open, responsive, and ethical government closer to the people. Nevertheless, we must always be on the lookout for those who would view our political offices not as belonging to the people who elect us, but as private perks to be doled out to the privileged few. Regrettably, we have seen this attitude begin to play out in recent days.”
“Two years ago I let it be known that I was suffering from prostate cancer and would have to undergo aggressive treatment. Despite this, I have taken great pride that I never missed a day at the General Assembly. Upon completion of my treatment, my doctor advised me to take it easy and I began to discuss with local citizens how to best smoothly transition out of public office. In the end, I decided to serve one last term and work on a two-year transition. Unfortunately, this was not good enough for some in our city,” Wilkinson continued.
“They (McDonald, Paul and others) saw this as an opportunity to circumvent the electoral process by urging me to qualify to run again and then withdraw at the last minute and allow their candidate of choice to step into office unopposed. I flatly rejected this proposal. Yet they went ahead with their plot and, at the last minute, qualified their chosen candidate McDonald. Their intention was to then pressure me to step aside with false claims that I have not been focusing on the needs of Sandy Springs,” Wilkinson said.
“A civic leader whom I have grown to respect, attorney Deborah Silcox, became aware of all this. She is smart, tough, knowledgeable of the needs of our community and a person of integrity. She also qualified but, in doing so, pledged again to step aside if I decided to run,” Wilkinson said.
“So now, fortunately thanks to Deborah’s actions, I can withdraw from the race and actively support someone to represent the values we sought to promote when we created Sandy Springs. I wholeheartedly endorse Deborah Silcox to replace me in the Georgia House of Representatives and ask my friends in House District 52 to vote for her on May 24th.”
Attorney McDonald, a freshman Sandy Springs Councilman until his resignation, and Paul deny Wilkinson’s charge that he was “blindsided” by their opposition.
Wilkinson also announced that Gov. Nathan Deal intends to appoint him to the Technical College System of Georgia board after his term ends. “There are other ways I will perform public service,” Wilkinson said.