Georgia state Rep. John Pezold of Columbus isn’t the first politician to say he’s leaving office to spend more time with his family.
But he may be the first one to actually mean it.
The District 133 representative posted a Facebook notice Monday morning announcing he would not seek re-election to the Georgia General Assembly.
“Since 2013 I have had the incredible honor of representing my family, friends and neighbors in the Georgia House of Representatives,” he wrote. “After lengthy consultation with my family and friends, it is with a grateful heart that I am announcing that I have decided to not seek reelection next year. My family has been incredibly supportive during my time in office. However, with my children growing older and my professional responsibilities increasing, the time is right to step away from public office and devote my full attention to them.”
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In a telephone interview later Monday, the 37-year-old owner of two McDonald’s franchises said that when he was first elected, his daughter Eleanor was 5 and her brother Jack was 2.
Now Eleanor is 10 and Jack is 8, and they have a little brother named Hamilton who’s 3. Their father feels he isn’t home enough, and so do they.
Each night when he puts Hamilton to bed, the little boy tells him, “Daddy, don’t leave,” Pezold said.
“It’s just tough,” he said. “Three months out of the year, my wife is a single mother.”
He doesn’t want his children to grow up without him. “My kids love me to take them to school in the morning,” he said. He wants them to have those memories of spending time with their father when they’re grown.
Until then, he doesn’t plan to run for office again, he said. If in 20 years some other opportunity comes along after his kids have left home, he might take it, but he doesn’t see that as his life’s purpose.
“I’m not a political junkie,” he said. “I don’t need this for validation.”
His father, Jack Pezold, made a fortune running McDonald’s restaurants, and put little John to work in one early on.
“He started me working at Stadium Drive over in Phenix City when I was 8 years old,” the younger Pezold recalled in a January 2016 Ledger-Enquirer interview. “I was just a little bitty thing, so I was making drinks in the drive-thru my first summer — certainly cleaned some bathrooms and worked out in the lobby. The second year, I got a little bit taller, so they put a booster seat up in front of the drive-thru window and let me hand bags out of the window.”
The younger Pezold now owns McDonald’s franchises on Macon Road in Columbus and in LaGrange, Ga. He graduated in 1997 from Hardaway High School, earned a finance degree from Auburn University in 2001 and a master’s in business administration from Columbus State University in 2005.
He worked in textiles from 2003 through 2006, and married his wife Ashley on June 12, 2004.
Asked last year why he got into state politics, Pezold said he felt Georgians weren’t paying enough attention to it.
“I began to question things that went on in our government, mostly regarding transparency and how, for the most part, people either are ignorant of what goes on under the Gold Dome — whether it's because they choose to be or whether it's because it's not covered — but for the most part, people want to pay attention to federal politics, in the echo chamber, with Fox News on one side and MSNBC on the other side,” he said.
When he first ran, the Republican pledged to serve no more than four two-year terms.
“Who wants to be characterized as a career politician? Ugh. Plus, who would want to do this forever and ever?” he said, adding, “That's a rhetorical question.”
Asked last year whether he might run for governor or some other higher office, he said: “I would rather pass a kidney stone every day for the rest of my life, and I've passed a kidney stone before.”