While newly elected Washington Congressman Derek Kilmer had some inkling of what he was getting into, he never realized how much he would have to take in before he even got sworn in.
“It was a little like drinking out of a firehose,” says Kilmer of the orientation for new members he attended in Washington D.C.
Kilmer recounted the experience in an interview Monday with Ross and Burbank. He admits it was a bit overwhelming.
“A lot of it is very important administrative rules, ethics rules, to what your office budget will be, to how to approach staffing both in DC and at home.”
The former state senator from Gig Harbor says he got a crash course in policy on everything from the budget to the fiscal cliff.
The Democrat will head back to DC this week for another round of orientation focusing on things like how to actually cast a vote and etiquette.
It might seem a bit naive, but Kilmer says even though there seems to be a huge divide between the parties he got the sense that many of the new members are eager to actually work together.
“I think all of us heard a pretty consistent message on the campaign trail and that is generally speaking folks are tired of the partisan bickering and actually want to see some progress again.”
If it sounds unrealistic, Kilmer has no false sense of how hard he will work. His average day is expected to last at least 12 hours. But he says he’s used to it from his days in the state legislature. “I generally left my home before six in the morning and usually didn’t get home until 9 or 10 at night.”
At least he’ll have some company. Kilmer and fellow newly-elected freshman Denny Heck will share an apartment together in the other Washington. “It’s no great shakes, I wouldn’t want to spend my life there, but it’ll do.”
Kilmer realizes he has a pretty tough act to follow in longtime Congressman Norm Dicks, the dean of the Washington delegation who’s retiring after 34 years in Congress.
“The two most common things I heard on the campaign trail were ‘you’ve got big shoes to fill’ and ‘dear god, why on earth would you want to run for Congress and it’s such a mess and you’ve got two little kids,'” Kilmer says. “My general response was, ‘I do have big shoes to fill and I’m running because it’s a mess and I do have two little kids and I think we have to fix it.'”