A group of Lehigh Acres residents and business leaders gave a rousing welcome to U. S. Congressman Tom Rooney when he attended a breakfast at the Bistro Rudy Restaurant at the Villages of Lehigh on Taylor Lane Extended last week.
Rooney is Florida's 16th Congressional representative and because of redistricting, he will represent Lehigh Acres, in addition to other areas, in Washington, D.C.
That is if he is reelected, which political observers say will be a shoo-in as he is being opposed by a relatively unknown newcomer from Okeechobee. Rooney is a Republican who was first elected in 2008. To date, nobody has filed for the congressional seat from the Democrat party.
Rep. Tom Rooney
Some 40 people were invited to the April 5 breakfast by Mike Welch, of Lehigh, who organized the event, which was sponsored by Eugen and his wife, Conchita Borosch, of Lehigh. Both are well-known business leaders in Lehigh.
The get-together was not a campaign event to raise money for those who were invited as guests. It was a Meet and Greet event, Welch said.
Before the introduction of Rep. Rooney, Welch, chairman of the East County Water Control District in Lehigh, noted the business success and the generosity of Eugen and Conchita Borosch. He has in the past brought candidates to Lehigh to give them a chance to meet the people who live and work in Lehigh.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who represents Lehigh Acres in the State House in Tallahassee, was on hand to introduce the congressman who was in Lehigh for his first time.
She spoke highly of him telling the crowd that once you meet Rooney you will feel like you have known him for a long time.
"He is genuine and cares for the people he serves," she said.
"You will find out that he has an incredible voice on your behalf," she said.
Then Rep. Mat Caldwell of Lehigh, also spoke of his admiration for Congressman Rooney.
After guests were treated to a light breakfast in the restaurant's dining room, Rooney stood up and introduced himself to the group.
"I have come here to tell you who I am," he said. He noted that with the latest and most current Florida redistricting plan, his area of constituents will include residents of Lehigh Acres.
"In addition to a part of Lee County, I will also represent nine other counties, with our home office in Punta Gorda," he said.
He said the state could at the last minute change redistricting lines, but he thought that the district, now with Lehigh as a part of it, will remain.
"We hope they don't throw a monkey wrench into it," he said.
He said his family was originally from Philadelphia but had moved to Palm Beach Gardens. He had worked for Rep. Connie Mack, the outgoing congressional representative who has represented Lehigh, in addition to other areas. He worked in Mack's mail room where constituents' mail is opened and prepared for the congressman.
That is when he noticed the needs of the congressman's constituents and may have given him the idea that one day he would run for Congress.
He went back to college and got his master's degree and then onto law school at the University of Miami. He and his wife served a few years in the JAG Corps in the military. Then he spent a stint teaching at West Point.
He later decided to run for Congress and won the district seat just north of Lee County in 2008. He is chairman of the agriculture committee over livestock and dairy. In the district, there are a great number of beef raising farmers, second only to an area in Texas that has more livestock farmers. He also serves on the Armed Services Committee and is one of the youngest deputy whips in the House.
Then he asked the large group if they had "any questions or advice" for him.
He was asked about the disagreements in Congress between and Republicans and the Democrats and called the situation "outrageous and purely political," and said the Congress had done practically nothing during this current session.
He noted the fact that the U.S. Senate has not come up with a budget for 1,000 days while the House of Representatives has, but it has not be allowed to be brought to the Senate.
He said he supported the Ryan Republican Budget. He said he favored term limits and planned to "out term" himself if he is successful in serving four terms.
"I have young children and when they get to be young teenagers, I want to be able to be home with the family during those important years. I won't continue in politics but may go back to work as a lawyer.
Ruth Ann Anglickis, who serves on the Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) group in Lehigh, asked the congressman if there was any help for the group, which is having a hard time financially and also not being able to gets many doctors to volunteer their time. She suggested some type of legislation that would reduce the doctors' medical malpractice lawsuits to make volunteering an attractive option.
Rooney said he understood the problem and said he would be glad to work with VIM in preparing grants for seek help.
Other areas of discussion were about immigration, the free trade agreement, and defense spending, which he said was being cut for the wrong reasons.
He promised to return to Lehigh as often as he could to talk to the constituents and invited locals to get in touch with his office anytime they need help or have questions about federal legislation.
The breakfast was also attended by a few candidates who are running in the August primary and November elections.
The breakfast get-together lasted close to two hours.