While he may be the low man on the Congressional totem pole, newly elected U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, who represents Missouri's Eighth District, couldn't be more enthused to be this area's man in Washington.
His optimism and excitement was quite evident Monday during an informal luncheon with area business leaders at Innovation Park in Rolla.
Amy Mitchell, vice president of Sinks Pharmacy, was among 20 or so attendees who came to meet and greet Smith.
"He is a breath of fresh air," said Mitchell. "I loved his energy. He is excited and that makes me excited."
Rolla was the last stop on Smith's Monday agenda. His day began in Cuba, Mo., with tours of Meramec Electrical Products and American Precision Die Casting. He then made a brief stop at Tacony Manufacturing in St. James.
Smith has been in office for less than a month. He was sworn in June 5 after winning a special election to succeed longtime Eighth District Rep. Jo Ann Emerson who retired from Congress in January.
"We've hit the ground running," said Smith as regards getting to know all of the folks of his congressional district. The Eighth District comprises 30 counties in southeastern Missouri. "In just 26 days we've hit 20 of the 30 counties and that has just been on the weekends."
The 32-year-old Salem native noted several times that when he is in Phelps, Crawford or Dent counties, he feels like he is at home.
"I wanted you all to come today so I can hear from you of the things that are important to you and how we can be there to help," said Smith. "I am here to build a relationship for a long time and here to serve the people of the Eighth District for a long time."
He touched briefly on his congressional work so far as regards his membership on the House Judiciary Committee and House Natural Resources Committee. He noted it has been an eye-openinig experience so far while at work in the Capitol.
He pointed out that he can already see a difference between the way policies or legislation move through Washington as opposed to the way they moved through Jefferson City. Smith was a Missouri state representative for more than eight years.
"The struggle now is that the light at the end of the tunnel is much farther than it was in Jefferson City. Things in Washington move much slower and because of that it can be frustrating. You wonder if these things are ever going to get there. That is something that I am having a hard time getting used to," he said.
When asked by one attendee on how local businesses could help him to better the community, Smith cited teamwork as key.
Page 2 of 2 - "If we could start to work together as a community to make this place more attractive for businesses, that is something that I would like to see, Smith said. "I am going to do what I can to move things together."
Doug Cresswell, owner of Triad's Office City in Rolla, was impressed by all that he heard.
"I have never been to something like this. It was good to meet Jason," he said. "I think it was good and informative. Hopefully we will start seeing some change."
The Congressman concluded his hour-long discussion with the fact that he is here to get things done.
"I am excited. I do not want to leave this position someday and think what happened," he said. "I want to be able to say that this happened in the Eighth District and be proud of it. It is not going to happen overnight. I want this area to be a growing, vibrant area for my kids and my grandkids to know," Smith said.