On the morning of Friday, February 1, Verona High School students taking Mr. Tamburro’s AP U.S Government and Politics class met with recently elected Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. Sherrill is a former Navy helicopter pilot, ex-federal prosecutor, a mother of four, and now currently represents New Jersey’s 11th congressional district, which Verona has been a part of since 2012.
During her visit, Rep. Sherrill discussed many aspects of her duties in Congress, as well as her initiatives for the future. She explained that the two local issues she plans to primarily address while serving in office concern the Picatinny Arsenal and the Gateway Tunnel. After being elected, Rep. Sherrill explained that she sought to join the House Armed Service Committee in effort to advocate for Picatinny Arsenal, which is an American military research and manufacturing facility in Morris County, and is the leading provider of jobs in the area. The base plays a vital role in the national defense and our local economy, Rep. Sherrill noted. The Armed Service Committee is responsible for the oversight of the Department of Defense and congressional military policy. As a veteran herself, she explained that she understands the importance of a strong national defense, and is looking forward to furthering the committee’s mission as an official member.
In matters regarding the Gateway Tunnel, Rep. Sherrill elaborated on the necessity of this massive public works project that would build a two-track Hudson River rail tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan and replace the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River. Rep. Sherrill explained that this project would benefit many commuters in the 11th district, including some of the students’ own parents.
One VHS senior asked Rep. Sherrill how her military experience ties into her political career. Rep. Sherrill elaborated on the question by explaining that it in this day and age, it is important for women to have a voice in Congress and in the American political world as a whole. She stated that as a woman running for a position in the U.S. House of Representatives, she needed to be strong. Her experience in the Navy serving as a helicopter pilot, she mentioned, has definitely prepared her for Congress and has shaped the way she is today.
Thank you to all the Verona HS government students, @vhstamburro, and @PrincipalVerona for having me join your class this morning! It was great to talk about what I’m working on in Congress and expectations for the new year. pic.twitter.com/CY0QoAeUXC
— Rep. Mikie Sherrill (@RepSherrill) February 1, 2019
Another student asked Rep. Sherrill about what a typical day in Washington D.C. is like. She discussed the times at which votes on bills occur, and where she needs to be on certain days. Rep. Sherrill explained that the federal government shutdown in January has affected what exactly a “typical day” is. During the shutdown, Rep. Sherrill noted, she decided to refuse her pay, joining the federal employees who were not being paid.
Rep. Sherrill was elected to the House in her first campaign for any office, and told the students about her experience campaigning with a name not necessarily familiar to the general public. Interestingly enough, Rep. Sherrill’s first name is not Mikie: Her birth name is actually Rebecca. One student asked why exactly she chose to run as “Mikie” and label her campaign products with this name, rather than “Rebecca.” Rep. Sherrill explained that she has always been called “Mikie”, and everyone in her town only knows her by this name. As a matter of fact, Rep. Sherrill made the decision to legally change her name before the vote to avoid any confusion, so voters would see “Mikie Sherrill” on the ballot, and not “Rebecca Sherrill.”
All in all, Rep. Sherrill’s visit was timed perfectly, as the students of the AP Government class are currently learning about Congress. Rep. Sherrill took a group photo with the students, and those who wanted an individual picture had the opportunity to take one.
Ashley Baumgard is member of the Verona High School Class of 2020. Students can follow Rep. Sherrill on Twitter at @RepSherrill, or on Instagram at @mikiesherrill.