Heard on the Hill

Take Five: John Rutherford

Florida Republican is frustrated watching divisions in the caucus play out

Florida Rep. John Rutherford says playing golf leaves him wanting to bend his clubs. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Freshman Rep. John Rutherford, 64, a Florida Republican, talks about his days as a sheriff, differences within the Republican Party, and playing tennis.

Q: What has surprised you about Congress so far?

A: I think what’s probably surprised me most is the differences within the Republican caucus. You think that everybody comes from the same experience and background. In some places, I’d be a staunch conservative and in other places of the country, I’d be a moderate. It’s interesting to see how that works in the family.

[Take Five: Scott Taylor]

Q: What perspective do you think you bring to Congress with your background as a sheriff?

A: I think a very pragmatic approach, which is one of the things that’s a little frustrating because … to come from the executive side, or at least what feels like the executive side, to the legislative branch, is a little frustrating because I’m used to, as a sheriff, I say, “Take the hill” and my team would come together and take the hill. Heck, they’d even take a bullet to take that hill because they believe in something bigger than themselves. Up here, the speaker says, “Take the hill,” and somebody says, “We’ll take ‘that’ hill [indicating a different hill].”

[Speaker Paul D. Ryan] said one time that being the speaker is like walking through a graveyard — you’re above a lot of people but they ain’t listening to you. That’s been an interesting situation.

Rutherford was sheriff of Duval County from 2003 to 2015. (Courtesy Rutherford's office)
Rutherford was sheriff of Duval County from 2003 to 2015. (Courtesy Rutherford's office)

Q: What do you miss most about law enforcement?

A: I tell folks one thing about being a sheriff [and] then a congressman that is really nice is you only have to work a half day and nobody cares which 12 hours you work. Long days, I’m used to that. It’s actually nicer up here though because I don’t get those 2 a.m., 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. phone-call situations, so that’s nice — I get to sleep through the night.

[Take Five: Jim Banks]

Q: In what capacity do you stay involved with your church?

A: What’s really nice is I’ve found a very good church up here, St. Peter’s on the Hill. Father Gary is a good friend now, I think, and I like attending over there when I don’t go home for the week. And they have some events over there for Catholic members, too, so that’s kind of nice. You get to hang out with some of the other members and, I would say, talk faith issues, but heck, we just had the patriarchs from Syria and Lebanon here and that was a very interesting dinner.

[Take Five: Andy Biggs]

Q: What hobbies do you have?

A: I play tennis about every chance I can get. In fact, I’m trying to find somewhere here but the nice thing about tennis versus golf, which I’m not that good at and I never play it, you can play tennis under the lights at night. What I really love about tennis is you get a great workout, good sweat, so when you get through, you’re relaxed, you got some exercise. When I get through with golf, I just want to bend my clubs. But I get through playing a tennis match and win or lose, you feel good. You get those endorphins pumping so I think that’s why I play tennis more than golf.

Before becoming a sheriff, Rutherford was a school patrol. (Courtesy Rutherford’s office)
Before becoming a sheriff, Rutherford was a school patrol. (Courtesy Rutherford’s office)

Quick Hits

Last book you read:  [A book on ] the Palestinian and Israeli conflict — it’s from the Palestinian perspective.

Last movie you saw: At a movie theater? Was probably “Saving Private Ryan.” I don’t go very often.

Favorite song of all time: My wife and I have a song by Spiral Staircase, “More Today Than Yesterday.” That’s our song.

Role model: My dad.

Closest to in Congress: The Florida guys and most Georgia guys. Drew Ferguson from Georgia, Neal Dunn from Florida, and then Jodey Arrington from Texas, too.

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