Friday, November 15, 2013

Congressman Howard Coble

The Rhino Times was gracious enough to print a column that I wrote about Howard Coble's decision to retire from Congress. Below is the full version of my column, as it appears in this week's edition of the Rhino Times:

More Politicians Like Coble Needed

On Thursday, November 7, Howard Coble announced his retirement from Congress. He was first elected in 1984. When he leaves office at the conclusion of his current term, it will mark 30 years (15 consecutive terms) as an elected member of Congress.

There is no way that I can adequately express my admiration for Howard Coble. He has been my congressman for as long as I can remember. I was only two years old when he took office. I am now 31.

Many of us claim that some people stay in elected office for too long. I believe that is often true. But Howard Coble is different. He has dedicated his life to serving his constituents to the best of his ability. Over the years he has proven to have the integrity and sincerity that we need in Washington. I firmly believe that our nation would be better off if we had more people like him in office.

Have I agreed with Howard on every issue? Of course not. There is no elected official with whom you will agree with 100 percent of the time. But I have agreed with the vast majority of his votes in Congress.

Howard is a fiscal conservative. He believes in smaller government, less taxes, and free enterprise. And he has held true to those values the entire duration in which he has served in Washington. As Howard likes to say, he has "brought a sharp pencil to the budget."

But there is more to Howard than his conservative principles. He is perhaps the most genuine individual who you will ever meet. There is absolutely no pretense about him. He treats everyone with dignity and respect.

If it were not for Howard Coble, I would not be in public office today. When I was in college I had the opportunity to work as an intern for Howard in his Greensboro office. This experience is primarily what inspired me to run for public office.

When my time working for Howard was over, I knew one thing for certain: I wanted to run for public office. And I knew that Howard Coble was going to be my role model. I remember thinking to myself, "If I can be halfway as good a public servant as Howard Coble, then I will be doing all right."

There are several important lessons that I learned from Howard. Stay true to your values. Work hard and dedicate yourself to the job. Be accessible to your constituents. Maintain your integrity. Keep an open mind. Be sincere in your actions. Treat people with respect. The list goes on, but these are a few of the important qualities that I observed while working for Howard. They are qualities that I will never forget.

Howard has never been married and he has no children. His life the past 30 years has been dedicated to his duties as a congressman. He has worked hard for us in Washington, but he is always quick to come home when session is out. He enjoys traveling his district and spending time with his constituents. He makes himself available to those whom he has the privilege of representing in Washington.

One notable trait about Howard is his personal frugality. He lives in a modest townhome in Greensboro and has driven the same automobile for over 10 years. He buys clothes on sale and has never lived a lavish lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination. In other words, he lives by the conservative standards that he advocates in public policy.

Then there is Howard's congenial sense of humor. He often enjoys telling jokes or short stories that have a punch line. And his humor is often self-deprecating. Whether he is speaking with someone in private or giving a speech to a large audience, Howard will often interject humor into the conversation. This approach has helped Howard to connect with people on a personal level. It also reminds us that it is important to refrain from taking life too seriously.

An amazing skill that Howard has developed over the years is the ability to remember school mascots. It seems that he has been able to memorize the mascot of every school in his congressional district. This includes elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities. If you have ever met Howard, chances are that he has asked you where you went to school. And chances are he knew the mascot of the school that you attended.

Back when I worked in Howard's Greensboro office, I was stunned by the amount of energy that he had. Although he was in his mid-70s at the time, he had more energy than anyone on his staff. We all had trouble keeping up with him. He kept a full schedule and was constantly on the go. It was amazing to see a man his age display such an impressive amount of stamina.

But the fact is that we are all human and Howard Coble is no different. Howard is now 82 years old and his age is catching up with him. He has been stricken with back problems and other health issues that are slowing him down. His mind is sharp as ever, but his physical condition is beginning to falter.

Although I am sad to see Howard retire, I believe that he is making the right decision. Howard knows that his physical condition is becoming an obstacle in his ability to do his job. If he felt better, he would probably run again. But he clearly doesn't feel well enough to continue a demanding schedule as a member of Congress. There comes a time when we all must move on, and that time has come for Howard Coble.

This does not mean that Howard Coble is going away. I expect that he will remain an active member of our community for many years to come. There are many ways that Howard can stay involved and make a positive difference for our citizens.

When Howard leaves office, he will leave behind a legacy. His legacy will be that of a public servant who performed his duties with dedication and honor. Not only as a member of Congress, but also as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and as a legislator in the N.C. House.

But Howard will leave behind something more than a legacy. He will leave behind a model of public service to be emulated. People from all walks of life can look at him as an example to follow.
Thank you, Howard Coble, for serving our community so well. You will be missed for many years to come. And you will never be forgotten.

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Copies Are On The Stands

Be sure to pick up a copy of this week's edition of the Rhino Times to see the column in print. It can be found on page 31. It is truly an honor to have this column published in the Rhino Times.

The News & Record was also kind enough to agree to publish this column. It should appear in the News & Record within the next few days (perhaps in this Sunday's edition).


Jon Hardister