In her younger years, Byrd didn’t think she wanted to be involved in politics after seeing her mother devote a large amount of time to political causes.
“It took so much of her time,” Byrd said. “Later in life, after realizing the importance of being involved politically, I joke around that I have become my mother.”
Byrd will be leaving office at the end of this year. State Rep.-elect Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock) was elected to the seat in November.
Byrd said she is proud of several pieces of proposed legislation she introduced while in the House.
She sponsored the Georgia Government Accountability Act, also known as the sunset bill, to create a legislative committee that could review state agencies, ensure efficiency and could recommend eliminating agencies found inefficient or redundant.
The bill passed in the state House and Senate last session but was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Byrd said she worked on the sunset bill for seven years.
“No one in departments and agencies wants a review. They don’t want anyone to know how they’re spending their money. But I think that’s what transparency is all about, having people know what each department is doing,” Byrd said.
Overall, Byrd said the state government’s transparency level has improved over the last decade but could still improve.
Other bills Byrd introduced included a revision of requirements for carrying concealed weapons and a patient protection act for epileptic patients. Neither of these was passed into law.
Pro-life issues were also important to Byrd, she said.
For Byrd, every day as a legislator presented its own challenges.
“Every time you make a decision to vote one way or another, you have to weigh in the good, the bad and the ugly,” she said.
Introducing more laws, she said, doesn’t make someone a good legislator.
“More laws means more rights being taken away from you and me, and we have plenty enough laws on the books already that need to be implemented,” she said.
One of the most enjoyable parts of being a member of the House of Representatives for Byrd has been meeting people in the community and being able to help them with their behind-the-scenes needs.
“That certainly wasn’t part of what I defined as a state legislator (before being elected), but people do start calling you. When someone calls you, they’re at their last rope. They’ve exhausted all of their options,” she said. “In most cases it worked out where things were settled and people were quite happy.”
Byrd said she came into the House as a dedicated conservative and did not let the economic downturn sway her from those principles.
“I was very set. I knew exactly where I stood on the issues,” she said.
While Byrd enjoyed her time in the House, she said it did take a toll on her family life.
“Even though it’s a part-time job, supposedly, if you really do your job and take it seriously, you’re really on call 24/7. People send you emails all day long. On a daily basis, I would get 300 or 400 emails, and that takes time,” she said.
Byrd said the economy, health care and transportation will continue to be major issues for the state Legislature.
“We need tax incentives and things to bring jobs back to Georgia. Things are happening now, but they’re happening at a very slow rate,” she said.
Byrd plans to spend the immediate future traveling and catching up on some neglected hobbies.
But her future in politics is “still to be determined.”
“In politics, you never say never,” she said. “It’s always in your blood, whether you’re running or helping.”