Tuolumne County Supervisor Evan Royce made a surprising announcement late Monday night that he will not seek reelection after eight years representing District 3.

The 35-year-old Tuolumne County native issued a statement that expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve the district, but he wants to spend more time with family and focus on his construction business.

“I did not make this decision lightly,” Royce stated. “My gut told me that there was too much going on in my life, my heart was saying that I needed to spend more time with my wife and family and my mind was directing me to fully commit myself to my employees and continue to expand my business.”

Royce exits as the youngest member of the current Board of Supervisors by more than 20 years. He was elected at the age of 27 in 2010.

“I leave office knowing I have done my best,” Royce said. “As your County Supervisor, I was guided by my strong belief in defending people’s rights, protecting an individual’s freedom and honoring one’s ability to pursue happiness in their lives.”

During his first year in office, Royce was the lone dissenting voice against the 2011-12 fiscal year budget that apportioned money for the eventual construction of the $20 million Mother Lode Regional Juvenile Detention Facility, which opened last April.

Royce also supported an effort that began in late 2015 to regulate, as opposed to ban, the personal cultivation of marijuana for medicinal use.

He has since made statements supporting the exploration of commercial cannabis cultivation and sales following the approval of Proposition 64 by California voters in November 2016, which legalized the drug for recreational use by adults 21 and over and passed with 52 percent of the vote in Tuolumne County.

The exit of two-term incumbent Royce leaves the door open for other candidates to enter the District 3 race. District 3 includes the communities of Tuolumne, Twain Harte, Mi-Wuk Village, and others east of Highway 108.

So far, former District 3 Supervisor and Columbia College professor Laurie Sylwester has announced her candidacy. She pulled paperwork late last year to begin collecting signatures in an effort to avoid paying a filing fee.

Anaiah Kirk, 33, who works at Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown as a supervisor of correctional counselors, has also announced his intentions to run for Royce’s seat.

Kirk advocated at a recent public meeting for the board to take the most conservative approach to the state’s new marijuana laws as possible.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.