KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Eddie Mannis, a Knoxville businessman and HonorAir Knoxville founder who made history in 2020 when became the first openly gay Republican elected to the Tennessee General Assembly, announced Tuesday he will not seek reelection this year.

Mannis represents District 18 in the Tennessee House of Representatives, which is comprised of parts of Knox County. He informed his colleagues of his decision on Monday, according to a statement.

The announcement opens up a seat to be decided in the 2022 Elections. Primaries for Republican and Democratic nominees will take place on Aug. 4. The deadline for voters to register to vote in the primaries is July 5 and early voting will be held July 15-30. The general election will take place on Nov. 8.

A graduate of Maryville College, Mannis founded Prestige Cleaners in 1985, a dry cleaning company that has expanded to 11 stores throughout the Knoxville area and employs more than 150 people.

He served as Deputy Mayor for the City of Knoxville and became the city’s first Chief Operating Officer under Mayor Madeline Rogero. Mannis founded HonorAir Knoxville, an organization that has flown thousands of local veterans to Washington D.C. to see memorials built in their honor.

Mannis was defeated by Indya Kincannon in the 2019 Knoxville Mayoral Election.

After a narrow victory over Gina Oster in the 2020 District 18 Republican primary, Oster contested the result over claims that the Mannis campaign solicited Democratic voters to vote in the Republican primary. The Republican Party of Tennessee later voted to affirm Mannis’ nomination by a 43-18 vote.

Mannis defeated Virginia Couch in the 2020 general election, replacing the outgoing Martin Daniel to become the state representative for District 18.

Mannis, who will turn 63 on April 14, came out in a January 2019 interview with Compass Knox. He and Torrey Harris, a Democratic representative from Memphis, became the first two openly-LGBTQ state representatives in Tennessee.

Read the full statement from Eddie Mannis here:

“Yesterday, I informed my fellow Representatives of my intention to not seek reelection as Representative of District 18 in the State of Tennessee General Assembly.

As my guiding principle has always, and will always be, people before politics and partisanship, I wanted to publicly share the reasons behind my decision.

The recent passing of my dad has truly forced me to do a lot of soul searching. I have heard his final words, ‘Follow your heart,’ over and over in my head. After weeks and weeks of prayer and conversations with my family and friends, I decided not to seek reelection when the 112th adjourns. It has been a very difficult decision, but I must truly follow my heart.

Serving in the Tennessee General Assembly has been one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling things I’ve ever done. Making decisions that impact people’s lives and livelihoods is a huge responsibility. I will always be grateful to the people of the State of Tennessee, Knox County, and District 18 for allowing me this opportunity.

It has also been an indescribable honor and privilege to serve with my fellow Representatives. While we haven’t always agreed on issues and I will no longer be serving alongside them, I will continue to support them in their efforts of working towards what is right and just, and what hopefully will make us all better Tennesseans.

I look forward to returning to my business ventures, working alongside my team who have made many sacrifices over the past several years. They have afforded me the opportunity to take on two very hard-fought campaigns and serve the people of Tennessee for the past two years. I am also excited to restart HonorAir-Knoxville and get back to serving East Tennessee Veterans after a two-and-a-half-year break during the pandemic. Continuing to serve my community will remain one of the most important aspects of my life.

Although this is a bittersweet time for me, I leave hoping that it’s obvious that I’ve tried to make the best decisions possible based on my conscience and my desire to try and do what’s right.

I am grateful. Thank you.”