The saying “One bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch” definitely applies to our congressional representatives.
The 109th Congress should be remembered for passing Class Action Reform and measures dealing with energy, highway funding, and trade. Instead, many people will remember this Congress for the people whose misdeeds grabbed newspaper headlines throughout the session. Jack Abramoff and Reps. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Mark Foley, Bob Ney, and Tom Delay were poster children for bad behavior. But just like the apples, we shouldn't label all senators and representatives as bad. Quite to the contrary, Congress is filled with hard-working men and women who are proud to represent the people in their state and want to do what's best for our country.
Congress plays a vital role in looking after our national security, the economy, the support our troops receive, funding for our transportation infrastructure, and too many other important issues to mention in this short article. The senators and representatives we talk to care deeply about the U.S. and how their decisions affect businesses back home. Many of them also know a thing or two about your company, even though you may not know it.
The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) provides our members with a wonderful opportunity to get to know their congressional representatives better than many of their constituents. I am constantly impressed with the knowledge that congressional representatives have of our industry and the effect dealers have on their local economy. More often than not, your representatives will tell me about dealers in their district. They also share things that make our visits memorable.
For instance, did you know that Rep. Tom Petri's (R-Wis.) grandfather was a lumber dealer? That Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) went to Texas A&M University with the president of a successful lumber dealer in the state? That House majority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) knows it's springtime when—in his words—he sees the delegation from the Ohio Construction Suppliers Association in town for a visit?
Rep. Mike Pence's (R-Ind.) first words to me were to inquire about how a dealer was doing after he had a fire in his facility. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) began a discussion with me about the rich history of Hancock Lumber Co. One of Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) favorite things to do is visit his local lumber dealer in Omaha. The people behind the counter know him and greet him each time he walks in the door. A lumber dealer's wife used to work for Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) when he was governor.
There are many more examples I could share about the relationships elected officials have with dealers from across the country. How about sharing a new story with us at NLBMDA? More importantly, I'd like to hear your stories about the individuals who represent you, your business, and your community. We always want to know whom you know on Capitol Hill. Your stories and experiences with your elected officials help personalize our visits. Remember—they're not all bad apples! —Shawn Conrad is president of NLBMDA.