Walberg has walked in his constituents' shoes. Born and educated in Chicago, Walberg worked as a farm and steel mill laborer before joining the U.S. Forest Service and later attending Bible college. When Michigan Farm Bureau official Ryan Findlay stopped by his office recently, Walberg traded shop talk with him about this year's crops and how they've fared amid weather extremes.
Steel Manufacturers Association President Thomas Danjczek, who visited with Walberg that same day, called the Congressman his favorite "hooker," the term for workers who operate a crane to hook containers of scrap steel to move them from the yard to the furnace platform. A framed local newspaper front page on his office wall shows Walberg in jeans and a leather jacket, riding on his Harley- Davidson with a constituent, a 96-year-old woman.
His reputation for frugality extends to occasionally sleeping in his office. Even his wife, Sue, who crops up frequently in Walberg's conversations, has been known to sleep there. Miller said that she tells Walberg his wife is a "saint."
Reflecting on life as a second-time freshman, Walberg returns more than once to his Christian faith. Being a minister is not so different from being a Member of Congress, he notes, with its emphasis on stewardship and public service. He said his journey back to the House after his 2008 loss involved considerable uncertainty and prayer. As he put it:
"Even as a Christian who has faith in God ... I have to admit that both my wife and I kind of looked up, as it were, and said: 'What was that all about? All that work to get here, and only one term and out?'" And he was by no means certain that he would run again.
"We looked for ways out of it at times," he said, laughing. "Because once you go through this, you realize it's not a cakewalk. Nothing's given. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of fundraising. It's a big battle. It takes your entire life. It makes decisions for you in many cases."
Still, Walberg said, Capitol Hill feels like exactly where he wants to be: "I've found my sweet spot here in public service." The real difference between the two GOP freshman class photos on his wall is not the color of the sky — it's the fact that in the more recent photo, Walberg is a member of the majority. He admitted with a grin: "It makes it much more pleasant."