Raleigh, N.C. — Note: This post has been updated and rewritten to reflect comments received throughout the day from Stevens and Smith Anderson.
Sen. Richard Stevens, a 5-term Republican lawmaker from Wake County, has resigned his Senate seat as he starts a new job with Smith Anderson, a law firm here in Raleigh.
Stevens did not file to seek re-election, so his early resignation is something of a surprise. Typically, lawmakers make such a move if they plan to take a job in the administration or want to start the clock on when they would be allowed to lobby.
Stevens says it is "yet to be determined" whether he will lobby at the legislature.
"That's to be determined based on client needs," he said.
Under current law, Stevens won't be able to register as a lobbyist for at least six months. However, Stevens said, both he and others at his firm said they felt it would be best for him to resign and avoid the appearance of conflicts.
"This firm does have a number of clients it represents down at the General Assembly," he said. However, he pointed out that lawmakers had finished their sessions for the year, although there will be study committees at work until the legislature reconvenes in January.
Stevens is a former Wake County manager and said he will be working with the firm of economic development, local bond issues and local government issues.
"It's a very broad portfolio," he said.
A release from Smith Anderson says Stevens "will advise the law firm’s clients on a wide range of matters, including economic development, state and local regulatory issues, land use, local government law, government contracting, bond financing and state policy issues."
Sen. Phil Berger, the Senate President Pro Tempore, called Stevens "a dedicated public servant whose budgetary expertise, tireless work ethic and ability to work across the aisle made him a successful and effective legislator. As a champion for our state’s public universities, his support was instrumental in shaping legislation that made the UNC system a national leader in higher education. The General Assembly and his constituents in Wake County will miss his leadership and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Stevens became budget chairman when Republicans took over the General Assembly in 2011 and was known for his expertise on education policy. When Democrats last controlled the General Assembly, he was one of only a handful of Republicans tapped to chair key committees.
“I’m excited to open a new chapter in my career by joining Raleigh’s leading law firm,” Stevens said in a written statement. “Smith Anderson’s broad expertise will enable me to continue serving our community, region and state.”
More from a Smith Anderson news release:
"Stevens, a Raleigh native, earned his bachelor’s degree, law degree and master’s in public administration at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His ties to the university remain strong, having served as chairman of its Board of Trustees, General Alumni Association, Foundation and Endowment Board. He also is a member of Cary Academy’s Board of Directors.
A past president of the North Carolina City and County Management Association, Stevens has taught courses on intergovernmental relations at North Carolina State University and on state government at UNC-CH’s School of Government. He also has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Centennial Authority, which operates the PNC Center, home to the Carolina Hurricanes and the N.C. State men’s basketball team.
Stevens’ wife, Jere, is the owner of Jere’s Landscaping. They have two adult children."