It remains to be known how much difference one congressman can make in Washington. Certainly if you have been watching many national news programs and informational commentaries lately, you’ve noted that our Rick Nolan has made “quite a splash.”
Rick appears to have received more widespread early acclaim than any other “new” congressman/woman. There is little doubt that he will account for more than his 1/435 of impact on Washington, D.C., with his work ethic and pragmatic populist approach.
But, he is only one voice speaking against an awful lot of negative entrenchment.
What we do know already in the 8th Congressional District is that we have a different level of representation here in Echoland. Congressman Rick Nolan has only been in office a few months; however, he is clearly fulfilling his campaign promise that he is here to work for all of us in the 8th District. He stands ready and able to represent us, Republicans, Democrats and non-partisans alike.
Congressman Jim Oberstar provided aggressive and effective constituent service for this area for a lot of years. That was particularly so after Ken Hasskamp moved up to the Brainerd office. But, as we experienced during the latter years of Oberstar’s tenure, the huge time demands of chairing the transportation committee drew from his actual presence in this immediate area of the vast 8th District.
Congressman Chip Cravaack certainly tried to provide area constituent service, but in his limited time, it never really got off the ground, in large part because he just didn’t know the area. Not many knew if he even had a staff office for the area, and some of his “town meeting” efforts and appearances ended up being Republican only.
In contrast, when Congressman Rick Nolan learns of a significant problem in this area he delves in full bore. Some weeks ago, he, like the rest of us, first heard of the imminent closing of the Wasau plant in Brainerd. He was busy in session in Washington that week.
During the week, he started making phone calls and numerous other contacts. He immediately changed his own weekend schedule. He finished the session in Washington on Thursday and was in Brainerd all day Friday. As a former owner of a wood product business, Nolan knows that the threatened Wasau job loss is not just the 60 plant jobs. He understands the ripple effect on raw material suppliers and the numerous support entity businesses and jobs that are jeopardized.
With his full personal involvement and the work of his staff, they made arrangements and met on Friday with all available management representatives and the local union. They included all area state representatives (Republican and DFL) in the meetings. Nolan arranged to have presence and involvement of the State Department of Economic Development and the local economic development office. They got Brainerd elected officials to the meetings and also invited and involved the Brainerd Chamber of Commerce. Workforce development for the area was involved, as was CLC and even the Initiative Foundation. Nolan personally contacted and engaged staff from offices of Sens. Franken and Klobuchar.
Congressman Nolan didn’t jump into the Wasau situation, making or mouthing talking points. He didn’t begin by playing too-common blame games (even though the situation is curiously suspicious, given the recent multi-million dollar plant update and recent profitability reports). Instead, he gets fully into the fact situation before making pronouncements.
First and foremost, he is truly listening to the people who know the problem the best, the ones who are actually, directly living in it. He gets into the problem in sufficient depth so he can act and react with substance, not superficially.
Nolan didn’t leave the unresolved situation with just a big splash that first weekend. He is continuing efforts to get at the cause or core problem while at the same time continuing to seek the best collective ways of dealing with the negative situation as it exists. There may be no miracle result, but we can well know that we are getting the very best effort and best congressional representation we could hope for in such situations.
In essence, Nolan organized an immediate “all hands on deck” approach to a serious area problem, in a non-partisan total community response.