Newly-elected Congressman Mark Meadows joined politicians across the state last Thursday when he took the Oath of Office as the new representative of North Carolina's 11th Congressional District.
After defeating Democrat Hayden Rogers with more than 57 percent of the vote, Meadows replaced former Congressman Heath Shuler, who served for six years before announcing his retirement from politics.
Meadows currently resides in Jackson County (Cashiers), and will be the first Jackson County resident to serve in the U.S. House since 1960 when Democrat David Hall served. Hall passed away while in office. Meadows serves as only the fourth Republican to be elected as representative of the 11th District since the early 1800s.
Meadows believes that being a freshman member of Congress has both its benefits and its challenges.
“A great challenge as a freshman member is getting to know my colleagues to see how we can best leverage our abilities,” said Meadows. “My greatest strength is being able to ask why we do things the way we do them rather than accepting the status quo. I can provide an outsider’s perspective.”
Meadows isn't alone on his journey to get to know his colleagues. Of the 535 members that comprise the United States Congress, 79 of the members join Meadows as freshmen members of the 113th Congress.
As a businessman, Meadows is capitalizing on his work experience to aid in the transition process to congressman. “The transition from businessman to congressman has been exciting but more hectic than I anticipated,” said Meadows.
Meadows is currently in the process of establishing offices in all 17 counties, which is a feat in itself considering the 11th District is the largest in the state, and geographically one of the largest in the country. Serving a population of nearly 620,000 spreading from the western tip of Cherokee County to far eastern points of Yancey and McDowell, Meadows has been busy. “Setting up multiple offices in short order is a challenge, as is determining the best practices for staying connected with constituents in the district. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to do that effectively over the next 30 days.”
With his family remaining in Cashiers, Meadows has rented an apartment in Washington, but plans to keep his home base Jackson, to not only stay grounded in the district, but to remain close to his family. “I am a resident of the 11th District who commutes to DC,” said Meadows. “We’ve hired staff members with experience on Capitol Hill to help us move legislation forward in DC when we’re in the district.”
One key difference between the business world and politics Meadows has been able to identify so far, is the likelihood of being pulled in several different directions. “On issues, there often isn’t a clear right and wrong direction,” said Meadows. “There are lots of opinions on which path to take. We must work to ensure that we are effectively representing the will of the people in the district.”
Since being elected, Meadows has been appointed to three committees: Oversight and Government Reform, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation and Infrastructure.
“On Oversight and Government Reform, I will work to make government more efficient rather than allowing it to deter job growth,” explained Meadows. “On foreign affairs, I will support our closest allies and not allow the international community to infringe on our national sovereignty. On transportation and infrastructure, I will work to ensure that we have infrastructure components in the district to support industries that want to locate jobs in Western North Carolina.”
Like so many other members of Congress, Meadows believes the greatest issue facing elected officials at this moment is what steps to take next regarding the budget.
“The most pressing issue facing Congress is to reduce spending and prevent runaway spending going forward,” said Meadows. “The President promised a balanced approach to solving the fiscal cliff, but what we got was a one-pronged approach: Increasing tax revenue. It’s up to the 113th Congress to complete the other side of that through reduced spending and entitlement reform. It’s the biggest issue we face.”
Honing in on issues currently plaguing western North Carolina, Meadows believes the focus should be on the same thing he ran for office on: Job creation.
“For the 11th District, it is determining what we can do to get the government out of the way of creating jobs,” said Meadows. “We must reduce spending, cut the deficit, and create real entitlement reform.”
Even while vying for a spot on the ticket, Meadows has been a strong advocate for Second Amendment rights, a trait that he said has not wavered despite the recent Sandy Hook Tragedy in Newtown, Conn. A gun owner himself, Meadows believes the answer to such senseless tragedies will not be found in more regulations.
“Most proposed legislation would not have stopped the tragedies we’ve recently experienced,” said Meadows. “I’ve already made contact with a number of schools in the 11th District to see how we can make them safer. I’ve also talked with three sheriffs in the district about ensuring that our children can concentrate on learning math and reading in school rather than being concerned for their safety.”
With Congress being the first post to which Meadows has ever been elected, he is humbled by the confidence voters in the 11th District have invested in him. “It’s an honor to serve the people of the 11th District, and it’s not a responsibility I take lightly,” said Meadows. “Our legislative staff will be aggressively involved in the issues that affect the district. They’re already at work on their committee assignments so that we will not just be part of these subcommittees, but our actions will produce great results that ultimately put people back to work and benefit our constituents.”
Meadows plans to continue hammering out the logistics of the beginning of his two- year term in office in Washington over the coming weeks with a return to the district planned for later this month. “We have an official meeting in Jackson County on Monday, Jan. 28, and we will be in the 11th District for the following four days,” he said. “We plan to visit every county in the 11th District by the end of February.”