Column: Congress take note: Citizens notice those who take care of community



The rigors of the campaign still are fresh, but for newly elected House members and senators, the hard part is just beginning. Already, they’re inundated with advice on the issues they’ll be facing: The fiscal cliff, crises overseas, how to behave in a highly partisan Congress.

All of this will take time to sort out. But there’s one task I’d advise them to tackle right away, whatever their party: learning how to do constituent services right.

Many years ago, when I was still in the House, I accompanied a senator to a public meeting. A woman approached him afterward to ask for help with a Social Security problem. Irritably, my colleague told her that he didn’t have time; he had important policy issues to deal with. I was stunned. So was the woman. I have never forgotten the look of helpless chagrin on her face.

Self-interest alone would have counseled a more helpful approach. I ran into someone from my district once who told me, “I don’t agree with you most of the time, but I’m voting for you because you take good care of your constituents.”

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