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Retiring Wyss hailed for safety laws work


– The Indiana Senate on Tuesday honored retiring Fort Wayne Sen. Tom Wyss as a veteran lawmaker focused on protecting Hoosiers.

He was one of five senators not seeking re-election feted by the chamber. There were tears, laughter and a slideshow of pictures highlighting their lives.

Wyss, 70, will finish his term, which runs through the November election.

“I’ve always called him senator safety,” said Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis. “Everything he does from the gates at the parking lot to security around the Statehouse to keeping babies safe in car seats to having seat belts on to his homeland security responsibilities to his 0.08 history – everything in Sen. Tom Wyss’ career deals with safety.”

In 2001, after an 11-year battle, he helped pass the state’s drunken-driving law establishing the blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent as the legal limit.

Wyss also spearheaded other key proposals to protect Hoosiers, including co-authoring legislation to prohibit the practice of texting while driving and becoming a national expert on homeland security matters.

“I’ve never done anything in my life that has been more rewarding or more satisfying than being a senator and being involved in this process,” Wyss said Tuesday, at times holding back tears.

He said going back to his days on county council, public safety and transportation have always been his interests.

The moderate Republican is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs Committee. He started his political career on the Allen County Council in 1978.

Wyss entered the Indiana Senate in 1985 and has been on several committees including Appropriations, Local Government and Rules and Legislative Procedure.

He said that making the decision to retire has been tough but in the end “being able to make that decision on your own is the way to go out.”

In addition to the resolution offered Tuesday, state homeland security officials named the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center after Wyss and the State Fire Marshal’s Office presented him with an honorary service medal.

A Purdue University graduate, Wyss is also retired from General Electric Systems. He and his late wife, Shirley, have two daughters and five grandchildren.

“This is a family affair,” Wyss said of his colleagues, staff and even lobbyists in the hallway.

“Thank you for allowing me to be up here, to be a senator. I have nothing but the greatest admiration.”