Congressman Visits Matanzas Class
Dual-enrollment students in Col. Jack Howell’s National Security Enterprise class in partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Matanzas High School Monday got a chance to hear from U.S. Representative Michael Waltz, whose district includes Flagler County.
Waltz explained to the audience of 13 students about what his job entails as one of 29 elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives who represent the Sunshine State in Washington, D.C. Addressing these future voters and possible up-and-coming leaders, Waltz was joined in the high school’s Media Center by some of his staff, as well as Principal Kristin Bozeman and School Board Vice Chair Dr. Colleen Conklin, who is a professor at Embry-Riddle.
Waltz spoke about how his job is divided into four parts: the big legislation that includes major expenditures such as helping shape the Defense budget each year and working on bi-partisan bills including last year’s infrastructure legislation known as the Build Back Better Act.
Additionally, Waltz discussed what he does on the various legislative committees in which he serves: Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence. Though he spends up to three-quarters of his time in Washington, he and his locally based staff address day-to-day concerns of his constituents such as resolving Social Security matters and veterans’ benefits.
Veterans’ issues are a big concern of the congressman, a Florida native and combat-decorated veteran who served as a Green Beret with tours of duty in Kuwait, Niger and Afghanistan.
Waltz explained that following his active-duty service in the military, he returned home and worked for the federal government (among other posts, he served as a counterterrorism advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney). Subsequently, he started up and ran a successful small business. Eventually, he began exploring the idea of running for public office himself. drawing inspiration from a situation involving a fallen soldier whose survivors had to deal with red tape in getting the remains transported to two locations in the U.S. At the time, the military only would arrange for one of the stops, with the cost of the second transport falling to the grieving family. He was determined to change that when and if he got elected.
Acknowledging that it isn’t easy for a political novice to run against a seated official, Waltz waited until the time was right. When then-Congressman Ron DeSantis decided to run for the governor’s seat, Waltz seized the opportunity and threw his hat into the ring for the open seat in the 6th District. The Republican faced only one other candidate, a Libertarian, and won the seat.
During his half-hour meeting with the Matanzas students, Waltz also addressed questions from the students. One asked how his military background had served him as a congressman. He said that learning the basics of leadership at an early age helped. “You have an ethos coming in,” he said, adding that he has, in turn, encouraged other vets to run for public office.
Another student asked him for advice on where his father can find job opportunities upon retiring from the military, to which Waltz assured him that his office could provide some direction.
Addressing the highlights and challenges of his job to another student, he assured the teen that there is always a little bit of both. He said one of the memorable moments was riding in the President’s motorcade in “the Beast” around the Daytona Speedway and later joining the President aboard Air Force One when it did a flyover of the famous raceway. Another Kodak moment was getting to join the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landing and jumping out of a vintage aircraft. One of the other jumpers was a 92-year-old vet, and watching the man’s delight in recreating that historic event was a true highlight.
One of the few downsides of being a congressman, he told the students, is having to fundraise for the next campaign.
“You come off an election every two years so it’s like you have to start right away on getting re-elected,” he said. “If it ever gets old, you have to let someone else step in.”
He left the students with one last bit of advice before departing: “You’ll soon be old enough to vote. Educate yourself and go vote,” he urged them. “Travel and see other countries. Then come back and vote.”