By Sarah Wibell
While U.S. Rep. Jody Hice visited Madison last week, a demonstration was held by a small group of dissatisfied constituents protesting for an in-person town hall meeting. Hice, who represents Georgia’s 10th district, had been invited to learn more about the local economy and other issues that concerned the community’s industry and small business leaders on Friday, Feb. 23. “This visit has been an opportunity to get thoughts, ideas, and input. Madison is a treasure. It’s been an absolute thrill to be here,” Hice remarked. During his time in Madison, Hice visited Source of Light Ministries, Town 220, and toured local manufacturing facilities at Bulldog Steel Fabrications and Mannington Mills.
“It is always good to have boots on the ground in the communities in which I serve, and I’m proud to report there are great things happening in Morgan County,” said Hice during a follow-up interview. “During my site visits to local industries, I learned about recent expansions as well as plans for future growth. I also heard how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is already delivering significant benefits to workers, families, and local businesses.”
Bob Hughes, president of the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the visit, stated, “I thought the meeting went great. This was a good opportunity to showcase two industries—Bulldog Steel Fabrications and Mannington Mills—to demonstrate growth and manufacturing in Morgan County.” During a tour of Mannington Mills, Hice had an opportunity to ask questions regarding product design and the business’s growth.
During lunch at Town 220, Hice talked to nearly a dozen community leaders from city officials to local business representatives. “The folks he met with at the luncheon got to express some of their concerns like healthcare,” Hughes explained. According to Hughes, topics varied in range from family values to gun control.
City Manager David Nunn commented, “Rep. Hice discussed some things that were on the radar in Washington. I brought up—as the main hat that I had on was for the City of Madison—the infrastructure deal and my concern that, even with the amount of money put into the federal government, they are going to rely on local money.” Nunn said that Rep. Hice listened and seemed to understand his position.
Joe DiLetto, city council member added, “Congressman Hice explained why he did not vote for the budget, indicating he thought the budget could have been done without additional spending.”
While Hice continued his discussions over lunch, a group of demonstrators representing Morgan, Newton, and Oconee counties gathered at Town Park near the entrance to Town 220. Terry Reeves-Martin, one of the demonstration organizers, said: “We are here to send a message to Rep. Jody Hice and to request that he hold a town hall meeting. We are his constituents, and it is his job to answer our questions and concerns. He represents all citizens of the 10th District, not just those with whom he sees eye-to-eye.”
Susan Riese, another demonstrator, commented, “Hice keeps cancelling Town Hall meetings, which concerns me because we have voices, ideas, and beliefs, and we deserve to be heard.” Riese was one of many in the group to carry a sign for Hice’s opponent in the upcoming election, Chalis Montgomery.
But Hice maintains his availability to his constituents.
“I am always willing to engage in a dialogue with anyone who seeks to share their thoughts and ideas, and I have consistently shown that through participating in 14 Telephone Town Halls and more than 780 ‘Coffees with Your Congressman,’ district events, site visits, meetings, and school visits since I’ve been in office,” said Hice of his time in office since 2015. ““These forums have proven to be the most effective and constructive way to engage with constituents, and I will continue to be available and accessible to all of my constituents — regardless of political affiliation — through these mediums moving forward, in addition to scheduling in-person meetings in one of my District offices or in Washington, D.C.”
The congressman’s most recent Telephone Town Hall, open to all 10th District residents, was held on Feb. 15.According to Hice, he will not be able to hold another Telephone Town Hall until after the May 22, 2018 election.
“Due to Election Blackout restrictions by the Committee on House Administration, which prohibit mass communication by Members of Congress within 90 days of an election, and classify Telephone Town Halls as one such communication, I will not be able to host another conference call until after May 22, 2018. I look forward to resuming these routine calls once these restrictions are no longer in place.”
Hice did not comment on why he will not hold an in-person town hall instead.
Gun control and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were other issues that concerned the demonstrators. Julia Hearn, who worked in Bagdad, Iraq, for six and a half years as a civilian contractor building military bases, said, “There is no reason any civilian here needs weapons like those used in war zones.” In addition, Hearn wants “a more inclusive government that supports all Americans and supports our DACA. Our kids who have known nothing but being American should have a way to have citizenship granted to them.”
Rep. Hice encourages district residents to provide feedback and ask questions on his website: https://hice.house.gov.