By Tim Whyte
Rep. Katie Hill dropped by The Signal’s offices the other day, and it was an enjoyable conversation. She was forthcoming, engaging, frank and witty.
And, one thing she told us really struck me as funny:
She said that, when people contact her office seeking help, some of them start the conversation by saying, “I didn’t vote for you…”
It’s an odd thing to say when you’re asking someone for help, isn’t it?
But Katie gets it: Helping constituents and seeking legislation that helps the district is not a partisan thing.
Beyond all of the info she provided us on her legislative priorities and accomplishments so far as a leader of a massive Democrat freshman class, that was my biggest takeaway from our meeting.
As our congresswoman, it’s not just her job to take on the often divisive national issues that grab the headlines. A big part of the congresswoman’s job is to advocate for local needs, like infrastructure, housing and legislation that will benefit businesses and citizens in the 25th Congressional District.
And, a big part of the job is serving as a vital point of contact between the people and the federal government.
Often, those people need help.
It’s kind of the under-the-radar job of any member of Congress. While most of the news emanating from Washington focuses on the heated, much-debated issues and the unsavory aspects of partisan politics, a very significant part of the job is simply providing help to individuals who need it.
In addition to the legislative stuff, Hill reported that in her first six months in Congress, her office has opened 204 cases for constituents who needed assistance, and of those, 72 have been completed. Fifty-one of them are considered success stories, with a cumulative $337,000 in benefits for constituents.
Pretty good batting average, actually.
The types of assistance most frequently sought include veterans needing help navigating the veterans benefits system and individuals needing assistance on matters relating to Social Security.
In many of those cases, she said, the people needing help just didn’t know where to turn, because after all, how many of us in our day-to-day lives are tuned in to the intricacies of dealing with a federal bureaucracy?
Sometimes, you need information, and sometimes, you need someone influential in your corner. One phone call from a member of Congress can do wonders when you need to get something done.
Your vote for the congresswoman is not a prerequisite. Seriously — even if you’re a hard-core Republican, and you need help with veterans benefits or Social Security or any other of the myriad issues that might arise between you and the federal government, the congresswoman’s office is there to serve as constituent advocate.
I didn’t vote for Katie, either. Too soon to say whether I’ll vote for her in 2020. Politically, she and I have a few things in common, but there are also many significant areas in which we disagree.
That’s OK, though. I’m confident that, if an issue ever arose where I needed her office’s help in dealing with the federal government, Katie and her team would gladly help, all partisanship aside.
That’s as it should be.
I know one thing, though. If I ever walked into her offices needing something, I wouldn’t start the conversation by saying, “I didn’t vote for you…”
Just seems kind of gratuitous to lead with that when you’re asking for help, right?
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal. His column appears Sundays. On Twitter: @TimWhyte.