Local delegation descends on Capitol
<em>Editor's Note: Advance Monticellonian reporter Patty Wooten traveled to Washington D.C. last week to cover the annual trip by members of Twenty for the Future. Links to video clips from the meetings appear at the end of this story and an in-depth story and more photos of the trip will appear in "Times Like These," a special April 1 publication of The Advance.</em>
Members of Twenty for the Future returned to Monticello Thursday afternoon following a trip to Washington to raise more federal attention to area projects.
Those making the trip from Monticello were: Twenty for the Future president Dave Dickson, and his wife Memorie; MEDC chairman Bennie Ryburn, III; Monticello Mayor Joe Rogers; Drew County Judge Damon Lampkin and his wife Sheilla; Monticello Alderman Al Peer; Ron Echols, president of Echols and Associates and a member of the Drew County Quorum Court; Linda Yeiser, vice-chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Monticello; Drew Memorial Hospital CEO Mike Layfield; John McClendon, president of SeaArk Marine; Ken McFalls, vice president of SeaArk Marine; Tommy Maxwell, president and chief executive officer of Maxwell Hardwood Flooring; Akin Industries president Mike Akin and his wife Susan; George Harris, president of Commercial Bank; Bill Wisener, president of Simmons First National Bank; MEDC director Truman Hamilton and his wife Mary; and Linda Jones, MEDC administrative assistant. A group from Warren also made the trip.
Leaving Little Rock at 8:30 a.m.Tuesday and changing planes in Atlanta, the group arrived in Washington around 2 p.m., long enough to drop off their luggage, grab a late lunch at Bullfeathers, an eatery and watering hole on Capitol Hill, before hailing a cab to Morton's Steakhouse where they hosted a reception and dinner for the Washington delegation's staff members.
At the restaurant, they entertained U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor's chief of staff Bob Russell, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln's chief of staff Elizabeth Burks, U.S. Rep. Mike Ross' chief of staff Drew Goesl, and Ross' district director Jeff Weaver.
Pryor, Ross and Lincoln were unable to attend the dinner because President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address and the Joint Economic Address was taking place at the same time.
Burks told the group Lincoln was looking forward to meeting with them the following day.
"We really enjoy having you all come up to D.C. every year and visit with our groups and our delegation," Burks said. "It's a good time for us to revisit and hear what your priorities are, what you're working on, and how (Lincoln) can be helpful."
Goesl said the Twenty for the Future group is one of the most efficient they meet with during the year.
"We can't get a full grasp of local issues unless we're meeting with folks from the district," Goesl said. "And it means a great deal that you take the time out of your schedules… to fly up here and educate us on some of the issues that are important to y'all. We just wish the pot of money was bigger, unfortunately we're in recession and at war and we don't have access to the federal funds that we normally would… but we want to help y'all as much as we can."
Russell said the country is facing challenging times but there is an optimistic attitude and atmosphere in Washington, of people, both Democrats and Republicans, trying to come together to solve problems.
"It's clear that everybody wants us to succeed," Russell said. "This is an opportunity for us to do a lot of things to get things right. I think some of the message that you're getting back home is that you're seeing Democrats and Republicans maybe not cooperating… but I will tell you that the (Obama) administration is reaching out and trying to get all parties involved, to get together to try to solve all the problems we're dealing with.
"The budget you see this week will have a lot of cuts in there, which will be painful for all of us… but we have the best delegation from the state up here," Russell said. "Senator Lincoln is on Finance, that's the most powerful committee in the Senate and Senator Pryor has just gotten on Appropriations… and that's a one-two punch for Arkansas. Congressman Ross has continued to build up his credibility in the House and his position with the leadership in the House so that when we're working on these issues and trying to come together, he's that moderate voice trying to get things done for Arkansas. So we've got a lot of good opportunities to get things done."
On Wednesday, the group met separately with Lincoln, Pryor, Ross, U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, and staffers for U.S. Reps. Marion Berry and Vic Snyder, both Arkansas Democrats. Ryburn made the presentations to each of the lawmakers and their staffers.
Many of this year's priorities were the same as the previous three visits to Washington: The Forest Resources Center at the University of Arkansas at Monticello; the Southeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facility; rail to the Port of Yellow Bend on the Mississippi River; a county-wide system to warn residents of catastrophic events such as tornadoes or chemical releases; information technology infrastructure and an energy savings and infrastructure modernization project for Drew Memorial Hospital; the Monticello bypass; Interstate 69; the I69- connector; and a community center, municipal building, and fire station.
Following the meetings, Twenty for the Future and the Warren group, which included Warren Mayor Bryan Martin, Warren City Aldermen Zachary Burks and Dorothy Henderson; Bradley County Judge Keith Neely and his wife; Bradley County Justice of the Peace Hugh Quimby; Warren attorney Murray Claycomb, Marty Reep and Patricia Wilkerson, hosted reception at the Capitol for all the staffers and Ross, who stopped by for a visit with his constinutents.
Through their efforts last year, Drew Memorial Hospital was able to aquire more than $400,000 in federal grants for hospital improvements.
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a91a6..." target="_blank">Ross on Drew Memorial Hospital</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a91c4..." target="_blank">Lincoln on Drew Memorial Hospital</a>
<a target="_blank" href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a91de...">Lincoln on UAM Forest Resources Center</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a91f5..." target="_blank">Ross on UAM Forest Resources Center</a>
<a target="_blank" href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a9214...">Pryor staffer on the stimulus package</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a937a..." target="_blank">Lincoln on the stimulus package</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a938e..." target="_blank">Lincoln on the community center</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a93a7..." target="_blank">Ross on the Monticello bypass</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a93d4..." target="_blank">Ross on an early warning system</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a93ec..." target="_blank">Ross on I-530</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a9401..." target="_blank">Ross on the Southeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facility</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a9415..." target="_blank">Ross on rail to the Port of Yellow Bend</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a9443..." target="_blank">Ross on the Employee Free Choice Act</a>
<a href="http://mymonticellonews.net/articles/2009/02/28/news/business/doc49a945c..." target="_blank">Berry staffer on the Employee Free Choice Act</a>