After nearly 40 years of public service, Sen. Thelma Harper announced Wednesday she will not seek re-election. 

“Even though there is no greater honor than being able to serve and be your voice on the hill, I truly feel the time is right for me to pass the baton to the next generation of future leaders,” Sen. Harper said. 

She continued, “Even though I will no longer be an elected public servant, I will continue to serve and work in the community to help those in need.”

First elected in 1991, Harper was the first African-American woman elected to the Tennessee state Senate. She’s also the longest-serving female state senator in the history of Tennessee. 

Before joining the Senate, Harper served as a councilwoman for eight years. 

“Together, we have accomplished more than I could have ever expected,” she said.

Gov. Bill Haslam released a statement about Harper’s decision, saying, “Tennessee is losing one of its most experienced and likable public servants with the retirement of Senator Harper. I will miss her friendship, her insight and her wonderful sense of humor.”