A Day in the Life of Congressman Jack Kingston - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/13/03

A Day in the Life of Congressman Jack Kingston

Do you know who represents you in Washington? Every ten years, there's a new census and voting lines get redrawn. It can be kind of tough getting to know your representative. It's been one year since our lines were redrawn and Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA Dist. 1) has spent most of it on the road, trying to get to know his new constituents.

WTOC spent the entire day with him this Veterans Day, and there was never a dull moment. To fit everything into a day's work, it takes a solid staff and man who truly loves serving the people not to miss a beat.

Before 7am, Kingston was already on the road, still a couple hours away from his first commitment of the day. "Prior to reapportionment, we could get anywhere in the district in an hour and a half," he said. 

But not any more, days spent in the district usually mean breakfast, lunch and dinner in the car. "Being in the car is really an office, a mobile office," Kingston said.

And every minute counts. "In this district, which I think is 14,000 square miles, if you don't have exact directions, you're dead." In rural counties, where traditions remain the same, so do directions. "Your directions might say, 'Turn down a dirt road after the brick church,'" Kingston told us. "If the brick church burns down, you're sunk. And that can happen."

Just after 10am, three hour hours into his day and 140 miles later, he pulled up to the first event. Congressman Kingston came to Ocilla to congratulate the town on the unveiling on its new veterans memorial. "We own each one of them on this day, and every day, a thank you," Kingston told the crowd.

After meeting a few people, taking a few pictures, he was off and running. "You have to be businesslike with your time," he said. That's a skill Congressman Kingston admits he hasn't mastered. He likes to talk to everyone.

With a 29-county district, it's no longer possible. "You can't get bogged down, or you'll be late to your next event," he said.

Keeping up on current events in each town is also important. "You're not expected to be an expert, but knowledgeable on each issue." So in the car back on the road, he studied up on his next stop, Alma, where the congressman presented veterans with a flag that flew over the Capitol, and had to give an impromptu speech in which he congratulated the town on a first-class monument.

He stopped to meet a few folks before taking off. Kingston can't even guesstimate how many hands he shakes a day. "Several hundred," he told us. "At one time I lost my voice, and sometimes your hand can get carpal tunnel if you're not careful."

Congressman Kingston was on schedule so far, thanks to a little help from his friends. "With a good staff it makes it a lot easier," he said. "It's a team approach."

A few wrong turns and several cotton fields later, at 3:30pm and 274 miles into his journey, Kingston helped break ground on the new South Georgia Motorsports Park in Adell. "The dedication of a raceway had people from three or four different counties," said Kingston. "The governor was there, so it was a great way to see lots of people."

But there were still more people to see. The congressman was now running a bit late, and was 135 miles from his next destination, Sea Island for a G-8 town hall meeting. After arriving, he spent two hours answering questions of concerned residents, and his official duties were done. All that was left of his 14-hour day was a 90-mile drive home.

"It's been a long day," he said. "But we've had good barbecue. We shook some hands We've seen some hot rods, Veterans Day memorials...so it's been a fun day."

Just in case we lost you somewhere along the away, Congressman Kingston started in Savannah, traveled about three hours to Ocilla, an hour and a half back to Alma, another hour and a half to Adell, and more than two hours east to Brunswick before that 90-mile drive home. All for a grand total of 493 miles in a 14-hour day.

Reported by: Holly Bristow, hbristow@wtoc.com

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