Raleigh, N.C. — Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the influential, occasionally pugnacious but always entertaining chairman of the state Senate Rules Committee, resigned his seat on Friday.
"It has been the honor of my lifetime to represent and serve the people of Western North Carolina in the State Senate," Apodaca said in a prepared statement. "It was a privilege to serve in such a special institution, and I am grateful for the many friendships formed with constituents and colleagues on both sides of the aisle."
Apodaca served 14 years in the Senate, most of those in the minority party. He was catapulted into a key role when Republicans took control of the General Assembly following the 2010 election.
"Most importantly, please know how much I value and appreciate my family for their patience, love and unwavering support over the past 14 years," he said.
Apodaca became the enforcer and lead tactician for the new Republican majority, complementing the policy vision laid out by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. The two formed a team similar to the Democratic duo of former Sens. Marc Basnight and Tony Rand. Apodaca frequently said he counted Rand as a mentor in the job.
"I can't overstate the impact Tom Apodaca had on (North Carolina General Assembly)," Berger said via Twitter Friday morning. "He's one of my closest friends. I wish him well in retirement."
Apodaca had already said he would not seek re-election. However, resigning his seat early would allow him to return to Raleigh as a lobbyist in January. Had he served out his term, he would have been excluded from lobbying for the bulk of next year's long session because of a mandatory six-month waiting period for former lawmakers before they can lobby the General Assembly.
"I've got a lot of options, and government relations is one of those options," Apodaca said by phone Friday morning. He said that job prospects that have come in during the past two days may change his plans. "You never know what may happen."