The GVEC board room was the location for a quick meet-and-greet Monday afternoon between community leaders and new U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Victoria) as he made a swing through Congressional District 27 after spending the past two weeks as the newest member to congress.
Cloud was in the district hosting several “mobile office hours” and Gonzales was in between scheduled public stops in Luling and Hallettsville. The local meeting was billed as a meeting with the “county judge, mayors, and city managers” to get a feel for what the community needed and what he could perhaps provide. Taking the congressman up on his offer for the listening session was GVEC CEO Darren Schauer, Gonzales EDC President Genora Young, Gonzales Police Chief Tim Crow, Gonzales County Sheriff Matt Atkinson, Chamber of Commerce Director Daisy Scheske, Texan Nursing and Rehab Administrator Amanda Frederick, and GVEC Economic Development Coordinator Gerri Lawing. Each person was able to chime in and give their two cents worth on what was going on in their particular professions.
Cloud began the meeting by getting to know the crowd. He said that he was elected to help clean up Washington, D.C., and that the first job of a congressman is to be a good listener. He also spoke of how surreal it was to be a member of the United States Congress and the process in which he was sworn in — solo— and having to sign in for his voting card and security clearance. He said that he was already voting a mere five minutes after taking his oath.
Cloud described the confusion that sets in after one takes over from another congressman, as he did from former Rep. Blake Farenthold, who resigned amidst a scandal involving sexual harassment and misuse of taxpayer funds in April. Cloud said that nothing carries over from one congressman to another including staff and constituent casework due to privacy laws. As such, his first priority was to open a district office and reach out to existing cases and see if the constituent wished to continue.
The congressman continued that this was a work session to see what everyone was working on and to be brought up-to-speed on things.
Sheriff Atkinson asked Cloud what his goals were, in which he responded that he was there to bring people to the table in Washington and not to focus on any one big legislative item. He repeated that he was sent to D.C. because the system was broken.
“I'm not wanting to go to Washington,” Cloud said, “I'm willing to go to Washington.”
Atkinson focused on the needs that he saw necessary in law enforcement, such as funding to house inmates with mental health issues and lamented the difficulties in obtaining funds from both state and federal sources that often does not come to Gonzales. The lack of funding was reiterated by Frederick, who expressed concern for having to do more with less. She touched on being over-regulated to the point of where she feels that the care for her residents is being stretched because of burdensome, unnecessary oversight from officials higher up the government ladder.
Overall, state and federal governments took heat from the group because of claims of overregulation and money not getting back to the taxpayer.
Young was concerned about infrastructure and the matter of when — not if — certain things would fail because tax money wasn't being returned to small communities. She said that big cities are taking the biggest share of tax funds from government grants and programs, which leaves rural areas often underfunded. She also wanted him to return to Gonzales to be introduced to many of the large businesses in the area, many of which would not normally be seen by just driving through.
Schauer was curious to see what congressional committees Cloud wished to be on. Cloud said that he would wait and see, for he could work on many things since the district was so vast and covered so many areas from the coast to cattle prairies.
Cloud also said that a focus was helping to keep Texas in Republican hands and that people understand that the state is a battleground for the 2018 midterm election and the future of the country. Someone asked if he had been able to meet Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi — in which he said he hadn't — but he did share an elevator with Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Schauer was able to touch on cyber-security and the steps GVEC were taking to protect their electrical grid from outside threats. He said that they were doing their best job on protecting their infrastructure and wanted the congressman to keep an eye out so that regulators wouldn't come down on them hard for petty reasons.
Cloud concluded by stating that he is focused on constituent services and urged those in attendance to keep in contact with him and his staff. Constituents may contact his Victoria office with any questions at 361-844-2222.