In January, 26 House members will not be returning to Congress. Some of them will return to their home districts for good while some will stay on in Washington for other jobs or to pursue another office. HOH asked several of them to reflect on their political careers and offer some advice and insight for the future.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, 66, was first elected in 2004. The Georgia Republican announced in January that he would retire at the end of this term, his sixth in Congress.
Q: What will you miss most about being in Congress?
A: I think you miss the people, you miss the friendships that you’ve made and relationships you’ve built. That’s the main thing.
Q: What do you think the first thing you’re going to do back home in your district — out of office — will be?
A: Probably look for a job. [Laughs] No, we’ll probably take a couple of weeks off. Even after you get out in December and come back in January, you just try to figure out what to do with yourself because you’re always so busy up here.
It’s going to be the same way. When we get off this break, it takes you three or four days to kind of unwind a little bit and kind of get some of this stuff that’s been on your mind out of the way. It’s a little bit of an adjustment. By the time we get out this year, it’s going to be a little different than getting out in a year when it’s not an election year. We’ll just wind down a little bit and do some work out in the yard or woods or something. Try to relax.
Q: If you could change one thing about Congress what would it be?
A: I’d change the way the committees operate. I think every bill that’s introduced should have a subcommittee hearing and if it passes out of the subcommittee, then it goes onto the full committee. And if it doesn’t pass out of the subcommittee, then it’s dead. And, have the members themselves explain the bill. I think that would cut down on a lot of this kind of nonsense legislation being introduced.
Q: What do you think is the most memorable moment you’ve had in Congress?
A: I’d been here about two months [in 2005] and had a meeting at the Capitol. I wasn’t that familiar with the Capitol and the staff member I had wasn’t that familiar with the Capitol. Somehow, we got into the speaker’s office and I noticed a lot of people had on their Secret Service buttons and just a ton of security there. And I thought, "What’s going on?" I walked into the room and there was President [George W.] Bush and Jackie Robinson’s widow standing there. They were fixing to give him the Congressional Gold Medal. It was those two in the room and me and I said, "I think I’m in the wrong meeting." President Bush said, "Probably." I walked back outside and the Secret Service already escorted my staff member back out in the hall. Just kind of showed you that these little buttons can get you in a lot of places that you might not be supposed to be at.