U.S. Sen. Bob Corker will not seek re-election in 2018, the two-term Senator announced in a statement Tuesday.
Corker, a Republican from Chattanooga, said serving in the Senate has been "the greatest privilege of my life."
Tennessee's junior senator said the decision not to run for re-election was made with his wife and family.
“After much thought, consideration and family discussion over the past year, Elizabeth and I have decided that I will leave the United States Senate when my term expires at the end of 2018," his statement said.
“When I ran for the Senate in 2006, I told people that I couldn’t imagine serving for more than two terms. Understandably, as we have gained influence, that decision has become more difficult," Corker said. "But I have always been drawn to the citizen legislator model, and while I realize it is not for everyone, I believe with the kind of service I provide, it is the right one for me."
Corker is a graduate of the University of Tennessee. He began his career as a construction business owner. He got his start in politics as the state's Commissioner of Finance, and is also a former Chattanooga mayor.
Mike Edwards, President/CEO of the Knoxville Chamber, is a friend and fraternity brother of Corker. He said even in college, Corker was a person of substance and high integrity.
"Whether it was in business or in public life, he makes himself become more knowledgeable about those subject matters that he's dealing with than anybody else," Edwards said.
Corker currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has visited countries around the world discussing humanitarian, political and economic issues with foreign leaders.
Republican and Inside Tennessee Panelist Mike Cohen said Corker's role in shaping foreign policy decision will be a hallmark of his legacy.
"He's clearly been a voice on international affairs during a difficult international time, and look what's going on with North Korea and everything else," Cohen said. "It's a difficult time, and you knew he was a voice of reason."
Corker was mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential pick or Secretary of State in the Trump administration during the 2016 campaign and transition.
During an appearance on WBIR's Inside Tennessee in April, Corker said it would have been a "tremendous honor" to be Secretary of State.
"But when the president called me to tell me he wanted to give Rex (Tillerson) a try, I do think maybe it got down to myself and him and maybe one other, I told the president based on the criteria he was looking for, I would have picked Rex Tillerson," Corker said. "So I think he’s got somebody that’s really good and we have a great relationship, and I’m really honored to be doing what I’m doing."
During that same taping, when Corker was asked if he would run for re-election in 2018, the senator said he couldn't answer the question.
"I've got to sit down and spend some private time and figure out what the most appropriate thing to do is," he said.
Corker also declined to give an answer when asked if he would run for governor. Gov. Bill Haslam is term-limited from running again in 2018.
"I’m just not in a position to really answer anything," Corker said in April. "I’m not trying to be evasive, I just truly have got to spend some private time and try to figure out what is best if anything to do relative to public service. I do love serving the public, it’s been a tremendous honor, I’ve been at it for a while now, so I just can’t answer the question."
In Tuesday's statement announcing his retirement from the Senate, Corker did not provide any specifics about his future plans, but said "I look forward to finding other ways to make a difference in the future."
According to OpenSecrets.org from the Center for Responsive Politics, Corker's campaign committee currently has more than $6.5 million cash on hand. The campaign committee carries no debt.
Tennessee's senior Senator Lamar Alexander released a statement complimenting Corker's work in the Senate, especially in the areas of foreign policy, the federal debt and national security.
“Even when he’s been investigating smugglers’ tunnels near the Gaza strip, talking to foreign leaders, or giving advice to President Trump, Bob has never let his feet leave the ground in Tennessee," Alexander said. "He says what he thinks, does what he believes is best for Tennesseans, and has helped lead his colleagues on complicated issues involving the federal debt and national security. His absence will leave a big hole in the United States Senate, but I know he’s carefully weighed his decision, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he tackles next.”
Gov. Haslam released a statement Tuesday saying Corker "has served his city, our state and our country selflessly and with excellence."
"He has made a positive difference in the lives of every Tennessean, and every American," Haslam said. "Bob has been a close friend for over 40 years. His leadership and wisdom in the Senate will be missed, but I have complete faith in his judgment and respect his decision. I look forward to seeing what he does next."