U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson will retire at the end of the year, stepping down mid-term for health reasons, he said in a surprise announcement Aug. 28.

“With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve,” said the 74-year-old Republican and Marietta resident, who has had serious health issues in recent years.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Isakson’s current term in office does not expire until 2022. Gov. Brian Kemp will appoint a successor, who will then face election to retain the seat.

Isakson has represented Georgia in the U.S. Senate since 2005. He has many local ties and long operated the family real estate business from Sandy Springs. In 2016, the city named a bridge across the Chattachoochee River for him.

Isakson’s has Parkinson’s disease and has suffered injuries and other ailments in recent years.

The following is Isakson’s full written statement announcing his retirement:

“After much prayer and consultation with my family and my doctors, I have made the very tough decision to leave the U.S. Senate at the end of this year. I have informed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp today that I will resign my Senate seat effective December 31, 2019.

“I am leaving a job I love because my health challenges are taking their toll on me, my family and my staff. My Parkinson’s has been progressing, and I am continuing physical therapy to recover from a fall in July. In addition, this week I had surgery to remove a growth on my kidney.

“In my 40 years in elected office, I have always put my constituents and my state of Georgia first. With the mounting health challenges I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the job over the long term in the manner the citizens of Georgia deserve. It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my Senate term, but I know it’s the right thing to do on behalf of my state.

“I look forward to returning to Washington on Sept. 9 when the Senate goes back into session. And after Dec. 31, I look forward to continuing to help the people of Georgia in any way I can and also helping those who are working toward a cure for Parkinson’s.”

Local officials have begun responding to Isakson’s announcement.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul

“Johnny has been a friend and mentor for more than 40 years. He has provided invaluable service to Sandy Springs as an early supporter of incorporation when he was in the legislature and afterward, was key to the development of the Abernathy Greenway Park. He always put the interests of the nation and its citizens ahead of partisanship and power, a rarity in politics today.”

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath

“Sen. Johnny Isakson’s last 4 decades in public service show his deep commitment to serving the people of Georgia and this country. He will be missed in our delegation, and Sen. Isakson and his family are in my prayers.”

State Rep. Scott Holcomb

“I want to wish @SenatorIsakson good health as he finishes his term and thank him for his service. He is a class act and worked hard, especially on constituent services.”

State Sen. Jen Jordan

“Incredibly sad news for Georgia. Isakson is a true statesman and was always guided by his commitment to country and the people he represented. I didn’t always agree with him politically, but I never questioned his motivation. God speed.”
State Rep. Matthew Wilson
“The clearest sign that a person truly puts service to his state above partisan politics: everyone I look up to in my party looks up to@SenatorIsakson. I am so appreciative of him and his wife, Dianne, for their decades of service to our great state.

Sam Massell, Buckhead Coalition president

“[Sen. Isakson] is a longtime friend who has served well and will be appreciated for his sensitivity to bipartisan government. Incidentally, I have long considered him the mayor of Buckhead.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.