TUPELO • Steve Holland, a legendary state lawmaker, says he’s ending his career just like Frank Sinatra – his own way.
Hundreds of Tupelo residents and elected officials from all over the state turned out on Tuesday at the Tupelo Furniture Market to celebrate nearly four decades of Holland’s career in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
After representing Lee and Monroe Counties for nine consecutive terms in the Legislature, Holland lost his bid for re-election this past November. Despite this, Holland says he feels “free,” now that he’s out office but still happy about his longtime career in state politics.
“The work’s not done but my contribution had to come to end at some point in this venue. And it did, and I’m OK with that,” Holland, a Democrat, said. “Thirty-six years is a long, long life in politics."
Nearly everyone in attendance had some story or memory of calling the self-described “undertaker of Lee County” when they needed his help with a problem and how he would always do his best to give them assistance.
V.M. Cleveland, the market chairman of the Tupelo Furniture Market, said Holland has always worked hard for issues that “Northeast Mississippi put on his plate.”
“You wouldn’t get a free shot on him, though,” Cleveland said. “If he couldn’t support you on something, he would tell you why.”
Cleveland said Holland was always a supporter of the manufacturing industry and always supported Northeast Mississippi through charitable work.
Mike Armour, the state director for the Appalachian Regional Commission, said Holland was a champion of economic development in the region. Armour said he and Holland go all the way back to college, where they were fraternity brothers and have been friends since.
“We would always joke that I’m the most diehard Republican in the state and he was the most diehard Democrat in the state,” Armour said. “But we never let that stuff get between our friendship. We always worked together on economic development projects.”
Former lawmakers at the event said that Holland always supported issues such as access to healthcare and improving the quality of life for the “least of these.”
Former state Rep. Bo Eaton, a lawmaker who served with Holland, said that Holland defined what the world “representative” means.
“Not only did Steve Holland mean a lot for this district, but he meant a lot for the state of Mississippi. Holland’s philosophy was everyone had a seat at the table – the rich and the poor. He was a true representative.”
Likewise, Travis Childers, a former U.S. Representative, said Holland’s career can be summed by saying that, “Steve stood up for the people who couldn’t stand up for themselves.”
“Steve knew how to make it rain,” Childers said.