Heard on the Hill

Exit Interview: Rep. Reid Ribble

Wisconsin Republican says committees should select their own chairmen

Wisconsin Rep. Reid Ribble's first task out of office will be cutting a Christmas tree. And letting his wife decorate it. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.

Wisconsin Republican Reid Ribble, 60, was first elected in 2010. He announced in January that he will retire at the end of this term, his third in Congress.

Q: What will you miss most about being in Congress?

A: I’ll miss the people I work with and that will start first with my professional staff here and in Wisconsin. I’ve made a lot of friends. I care deeply for these folks. So when I leave it’s all going to be centered around the human relationships, not the work. It’s the only thing that you get to keep when you leave — any type of impact you had on policy around here is generally cast in sand because any other Congress can change it. But one thing that lasts for a very long time is the human interaction and personal relationships that are built.

Q: What do you think the first thing you’re going to do back home in your district — out of office — will be?

A: We’ll it’s going to be cold out so I guess I’ll probably be going out with my wife, DeaNa, and cutting a Christmas tree. We do that every year. DeaNa was not available to do it with me last year so I had to do it on my own. I then decorated the tree by myself and she came home and she was actually very happy that the tree was up, less thrilled with my decorating job so she fixed it and made it look really good.

Ribble seen in March 2011, shortly after first being elected to Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Ribble seen in March 2011, shortly after first being elected to Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Q: If you could change one thing about Congress what would it be?

A: I would have every single committee select their own chairman. Chairmen currently are selected by leadership and so they’re subject to the leadership. If committee chairmen were selected by the members, they would be subject to the members. If you want to have the great wisdom of the crowd — the 247 Republicans and the Democrats — actually go up to the top, like Speaker Ryan speaks of, the fastest way to make that happen is to have the committee’s chairman selected by the committees. It would have an immediate impact.

Q: What do you think is the most memorable moment you’ve had in Congress?

A: I was over in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo working on trying to get exit visas for children that were trapped over there, that had been adopted by families. Some of these children had been adopted for three years. [One child] Elizabeth was adopted as a newborn by a family in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who had never met her. I was in Kinshasa and I asked the ambassador if they could bring her from the orphanage over to their home — because I was having dinner at the ambassador’s home — so I snapped a selfie with her and sent it to her parents. A month later, that little girl is in Green Bay. It goes back to this human intersection that takes place, we had families in my district and in Wisconsin — there were seven of them — that had children that were trapped for three years over there. Those children are now in Wisconsin.

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