FRANKFORT — In a surprise announcement Wednesday, House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark said he will not seek re-election to the chamber's No. 2 post, which he has held since 1993.
Clark, D-Louisville, also said he "most likely" will retire from the state legislature when his upcoming term expires at the end of 2016.
He was re-elected last week for another two-year term from Jefferson County's 46th District, defeating Republican David Rainey with 65 percent of the vote.
"I have until January 2016 to finalize my decision," Clark, 69, said about staying on in the legislature.
Legislators will elect their leaders at the beginning of the 2015 General Assembly that begins in January.
Clark, who has been in the House since 1984, distributed to reporters after Wednesday's Legislative Research Commission meeting copies of a letter he had sent earlier in the day to House Speaker Greg Stumbo about his political plans.
He said in the letter that it is "now time to settle on an exit strategy for my transition from public service, particularly for the fine folks of the 46th District, as well as for our House caucus."
He said when he first was elected speaker pro tem, there was little or no training to prepare him for representing members and working with the executive branch.
"With that in mind, I think that choosing a new speaker pro tem at this time, when we have an experienced leadership team and a sitting Democratic governor in Steve Beshear, will give that new member of leadership an opportunity over the next year to learn the job's demands and best serve the interests of our caucus."
Stumbo said he doesn't know who might replace Clark.
Mentioned as possible candidates for the job are House Licensing and Occupations Chairman Dennis Keene of Wilder, Denver Butler of Louisville, former House Speaker Jody Richards of Bowling Green and House Majority Caucus Chairwoman Sannie Overly of Paris, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2015 with gubernatorial hopeful Jack Conway, the state's attorney general.
Stumbo said he was "saddened" by Clark's decision not to seek leadership. He called Clark a friend. "We hope to keep him involved in a very high level as we move forward these next couple of years," Stumbo said.
Asked whether the job should go to a representative from Louisville, Stumbo said there has been an effort in recent years to spread out leadership across the state.
"It's highly likely that at some point, if not at this time, Jefferson County will have a person in leadership," he said.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he and Clark "did not agree on everything, but I say this with a great deal of respect: He was always an honorable person. You never had to figure out where Larry Clark was. He would tell you."