Richmond Times-Dispatch: On the water with Wittman
I wanted to share with you an article that appeared in the Sports Section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch over the weekend.
The interview for this piece was conducted during a short fishing trip on Cranston's Mill Pond where Tee Clarkson and I discussed my work on behalf of Virginians, particularly in the areas of national security and protecting the environment.
I hope you will contact me any time an issue that concerns you is before Congress. It's an honor to serve you and Virginia's First District in the People's House.
Clarkson: Wittman comfortable on the water, devoted to the bay
June 17, 2017
I had the pleasure recently of spending a little time with Virginia congressman Rob Wittman for another of my On The Water series.
Wittman represents the first district in the House of Representatives. The first district encompasses the shores of the Potomac River, the Rappahannock, the Pamunkey, the Mattaponi and most of the York — a lot of water that spills into the Chesapeake Bay.
One never knows what to expect when headed out on the water with someone for the first time. I had heard the walls of Wittman’s office were covered in fish mounts, but that isn’t always a sure indicator of fishing acumen.
While I didn’t want to put any added pressure on the congressman, the first cast would be immensely important. You can tell a lot about someone from how they handle themselves with a fishing rod.
Circumstances didn’t allow us much time, so I steered the boat toward the most likely of spots, shutting the motor and letting it drift.
I handed the congressman a rod. He turned without direction, reared back and let his lure fly, the creature bait landing softly just inches from the bank.
We would get along famously I figured. I began asking questions as we worked our way around the pond. Now the pressure was on me to find the congressman some fish.
Wittman grew up on the water, being introduced to hunting and fishing early in life. His father was a quail hunter and a fisherman.
“As soon as I was able to walk, he threw me in the briar patch,” Wittman said jokingly of his father and their experiences hunting quail over setters and pointers, back in the days when wild birds were more plentiful in the state.
In the summer, they plied the waters around Gwynn’s Island for spot and fished the James for smallmouth. Chickahominy Lake was a favorite haunt. Wittman noted a time when he and some fellow Boy Scouts thought they would tough it out under the stars without sleeping bags. The boys used Spanish moss for bedding and woke up covered in chigger bites.
“A mistake you only make once,” Wittman said, laughing.
With limited time, I worked the boat toward my favorite sections of bank, but after 20 minutes we were still fishless.
Wittman has worked his way from serving on the planning commission in Montross in 1984, to becoming a member of Congress in 2007 with plenty of stops in between.
“I have always looked at where I can best serve,” Wittman said, dropping his rod and letting a fish run a bit with the bait before rearing back and setting the hook hard into the mouth of a 2-pound bass. He brought the fish adeptly to the boat and hoisted him in. The skunk was off.
QUESTION: You serve on the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources. The president’s proposed budget includes significant increases to military spending and huge cuts to natural resource protection, like the Chesapeake Bay. How do we best balance the two?
ANSWER: We need to do a better job of managing spending on the federal level. In defending the nation, I haven’t talked to anyone who says when it comes to our military, second or third place is OK. As for the Chesapeake Bay, clearly there is a role for the federal government.
Completely cutting funding to the Chesapeake Bay program is shortsighted. The Chesapeake Bay is an economic engine. It’s a national treasure. The more we do to reduce nutrients, the more value we create. We are seeing little pieces getting better. We have got to do more to make sure there is a coordinated effort cleaning up the bay.
Wittman cast again, dropping the bait in the shade next to a fallen tree, a perfect spot. Again his line went tight and he set the hook on another largemouth.
QUESTION: What is the biggest challenge you have faced and/or continue to face in Congress?
ANSWER: Finding bipartisan areas of support is our biggest need and challenge going ahead. We all need to look at what’s best for the nation. Despite all of what you hear, there is still a lot of good stuff going on. We have been divided before and we have found ways to get things done. We need to do more of the stuff that’s working and less of the stuff that’s not working.
The shadows continued to lengthen as Wittman pulled another largemouth into the boat, his fourth in less than an hour. He would be in Washington the following day, back on the Hill, working to find solutions to the problems that face the nation, the state, the bay. The fish, well, they might not miss him so much.