Sponsored: The Life of A Congressman On “Break”

Congress breaks for recess each August. For many Members of Congress, the hiatus is anything but a break from their duties.

Just ask former long-time Congressman Rodney Alexander who represented 24 of the 64 Louisiana parishes in Washington, D.C. Alexander is now The Picard Group’s senior director of federal affairs and spends much time in Washington.

“I had a relatively large district and represented about a third of the geography of Louisiana. My district took a long time to cover — it was from Arkansas to Baton Rouge and over the northern part of the boot,” he said.

Covering the 5th Congressional District’s array of banquets, parades and town hall meetings took most of Alexander’s time away from Washington. He believed spending time listening to those he represented, as well as the occasional fundraiser, was an integral part of his job.

“You do need to raise money for the campaign all the time and that’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the deal,” Alexander said. “I spent all my August trying to touch base with the people and demonstrate my genuine concern with their wellbeing. I didn’t spend my August off on a vacation island somewhere.”

For Alexander, traveling during the recess was always eye opening. He realized how frequently people he represented didn’t keep up with the happenings of Washington.

“But those who do keep up are concerned and will confront you in a minute,” he said. “Some people come to town hall meetings just for curiosity and don’t know the issues. It’s important that members of Congress go back and talk to those who might not know what’s going on. You can get isolated to Washington and lose track of what’s happening at home.”

Alexander said the purpose for the tour of the district is to show your people that you are capable and not set in stone on issues.

“We are representatives. The forefathers named the House ‘representative’ because you're supposed to represent to the best of your ability,” he said. “And, you don’t know what they want if you don’t talk to them and vice versa.”

Alexander was elected six times beginning in 2002 before serving as Secretary of Veteran Affairs in Louisiana and then joining TPG. He has three children and six grandchildren and in addition to visiting with his constituents, it was his family that was priority rather than vacation time.

“I wound up eating at Chuck E. Cheese or Johnny’s as much as I did nice places — and that’s the way I wanted it. I would stop at little country restaurants so I could talk to people. I’m a country boy. It’s hard to find collard greens and cornbread in Washington cooked like home,” Alexander said.

Despite appearances, the August recess is not a mere vacation from D.C., according to Alexander.

“A lot of people think Congress is on vacation. That’s not the case. You can’t stay up with your constituents in Washington. You have to go home and have a break and meet with your people,” he said. “I worked harder in Louisiana than I did in D.C. many times. At home, you might be at a Chamber banquet until 9 pm and then have a four-hour drive. August can be grueling if one uses it the way the time should be used — and if they don’t, you have a hard time being reelected.”

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