Qualities we’d like to see in our next congressman

Published 8:16 am Monday, January 13, 2020

Rep. Phil Roe has decided to call it quits as congressman from the First District of Tennessee. His retirement has prompted a number of persons in the area announce their intentions to seek the congressional job.
We hope each of these future candidates are serious about serving the communities in the First District, not just about being a congressman and going to Washington. We are still a depressed region, lacking good-paying jobs and opportunities to advance. Many of the jobs created — most in service industries — lack stability and security. They pay little more than the minimum wage and lack predictable hours, insurance, sick days or parental leave. The result is that the foundation of the middle class continues to be gnawed away even as help-wanted ads multiply.
Also, the opioid crisis must be addressed. Unlike many topics that make headlines in Washington, this is an issue that transcends political party. It is about people, their future, and the well-being of our community.
Too many families know the pain and suffering that comes from drug addiction and its impacts. The next congress must work to strengthen and expand prevention, treatment, and recovery programs, while directing more resources to the local level. There must also be measures to crack down on the supply of drugs to help keep them off our streets and away from plaguing our neighborhoods.
Our next congressman must be assertive. He or she must be able to create relationships with members of Congress, especially within their own parties, but also across the aisle is very important. When it comes down to ensuring you have the votes you need in order to pass a piece of legislation, a lot depends on the strength of your ties with others.
It’s also time we have a congressman, who identifies with the people of his district. He or she must be able to represent daily the people who live in their district and not become too chummy with Washington. They must be passionate and enthusiastically demonstrate a dedication to the causes and beliefs they espouse. Congressional leaders work long hours and a good part of sustaining the energy needed to get their work done comes down to basic commitment.
We must have a congressman, who is not partisan, but who can work across party lines. Even within the same political parties, conflicts can frequently arise. Members of Congress come from all over the country and regional differences can sometimes result in personality conflicts. Being able to adeptly work these out is crucial in order to get things done.
It goes without saying that good politicians must be persuasive, and this is even more true for political leaders. With so many competing priorities to attend to, having the ability to influence is a must. He or she must not go to Congress just to be a cheerleader to the president.
Lastly, the next member of Congress must stay close to his constituents. To be an effective representative, he or she must stay close to the people in their district, know their views, needs and desires.
Representation involves education as well; members need to educate their constituents about the issues and the policy making process enough to enable them to make sound choices.
Congress needs members who understand the need for and have the skill to compromise; who are willing to be team players; who can fight for what they believe in without demonizing their opponents, thus making it possible to work with them on a different issue tomorrow. Institutional effectiveness calls for members with a relatively long time horizon who see policy making as an ongoing process in which there are no final winners and should be no total losers.
There, no doubt, will be a long list of people who want to be Congressman Roe’s successor. The final say belongs to the people of the First District. Choose wisely.

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