UPDATE: Ga. Ag Commish stepping down

ATLANTA — Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, the longest-tenured elected official in the state, is retiring.

Former Gov. Lester Maddox appointed Irvin to the post in 1969. He was elected to a full term the next year and subsequently re-elected nine times.

“If you’ve been in office as long as I have, you’re old news,” The Associated Press quoted Irvin as saying.

Irvin, a Democrat, remained in office in a state that favored Republicans for statewide offices in recent years. But, that’s not to say Irvin didn’t see competition for his office — the 2006 Republican primary featured a crowded field, but the eventual winner, Gary Black, was unable to unseat Irvin.

Black is running for the post again this year.

Despite his ability to be re-elected, Irvin’s tenure wasn’t without controversy. Last year’s salmonella outbreak cost Irvin some credibility among farmers who questioned Irvin’s credentials after 40 years.

The AP reported Irvin suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, which played into his decision to step down.

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