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COLUMN: Insights for Our Future Leaders

October 23, 2017
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

Speaking with students last week at Hanford High School in the Tri-Cities gave me a surprising realization. The students were curious about how our government operates and also about daily life working in Congress. I realized that more people might actually be interested in what it is like for me to work as your representative. To give you an idea, I wanted to share a few insights as well as important events last week in Central Washington.

First insight: If you think representing more than 700,000 people in the 4th District in the House of Representatives is a desk job, think again. I will say that very little time is spent behind a desk. Most of my day, when not voting or participating in committee meetings, is spent meeting with as many constituents in person as possible. Last week, for example, I was home in Central Washington and enjoyed my time meeting with constituents across the region.

In the Tri-Cities, I stopped by the Senior Times Expo, where my office staffed a booth to offer services and assistance to seniors dealing with federal agencies. Then I headed to give a congressional update to the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and speak with local entrepreneurs to hear their concerns. Then it was off to Hanford High School to answer students’ questions about government. Later, I drove to the KONA 610 AM studio to share an update for radio listeners about tax reform and my efforts in Congress to protect dams on the Snake River.

Last week, I also participated in two roundtables—one on tax reform with local business leaders, and one with energy researchers from Washington State University to discuss how they are contributing to American’s energy independence.

I also participated in a Yakima Rotary Club meeting to hear about ways we can encourage public access to our forests and protect land from wildfires through better land management. I also visited an innovative health clinic and learned that expanding Health Savings Accounts would help increase options and access to care.

I also met with employees of the Walmart in Sunnyside during their shift break and joined the Sozo sports complex open house in Yakima. Meeting constituents at workplaces and community events gives me a better idea of what is important to constituents, and it informs how I speak in the House on behalf of Central Washington.

For our future leaders, I have another insights: In a democracy, it is very important to be in contact with people. In a single week, you may very well come into contact with dozens if not hundreds of people. (I also recommend that you get over any issues with air travel—because it is not feasible to drive the roughly 2600 miles from Yakima, Washington to Washington, D.C. on a regular basis.)

Finally, what about weekends when Congress is not in session? I always look forward to spending a few hours working on the family farm—especially during hop harvest. There is something special about spending time outside in the fields that makes me realize how blessed we are to live in beautiful Central Washington.

For the curious, I hope this gives you a better idea of being a representative. I strive to be hands-on and to hear from as many constituents as possible where you live.