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Finding the value of family in politics
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Have you ever taken a trip as part of your job and taken a family member with you? You go to meetings or do your work and they meet with friends or family and go sight-seeing or shopping. That’s usually how it works, and it happens all the time, right? Not so fast if you are a public official though.
“Leave them at home,” seems to be the idea of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, as they recently wrote about my wife or older son accompanying me on a few trips within Georgia. I disagree, and I thank the AJC for giving me a reason to express my views on the value of “family” tagging along.
First, let’s be clear. I pay the expenses related to my wife and family traveling with me. No public money is paid for them. I believe that as a state public service commissioner it is my responsibility to pay for any expenses of my family when they travel with me. But can a case be made for the value of having a family member along? I think so.
Benefit No. 1: Fidelity. Taking your spouse with you can send a message about your lifestyle and character. In a day when families are under attack and jobs tear marriages apart, if one can take his or her spouse along when traveling, he or she strengthens and protects that marriage and, hopefully, serves as an encouragement to others.
Benefit No. 2: Value. When I travel the state, I normally speak to groups, meet people, listen to concerns and try to seek solutions. My wife, Windy, and even my older children are very good at critiquing dad’s speeches or interacting with people and bringing back the concerns they hear to me. After the meetings or on the way home, family members will give me their feedback and advice on the issues at hand.
Constituents like to meet family members, too, because my family members are a reflection of who I am as a person. It is harder to fool people by pretending to be something you are not when they can meet your family.
Benefit No. 3: Health. If you travel a lot like I do, it takes a toll on you – and your family. Being away from your loved ones is demanding, and too much of it can put stress on relationships and even affect job performance. By occasionally taking the family with you, they have a chance to see what dad does and why it is important to every ratepayer in the state of Georgia.
I think of John Quincy Adams traveling to France with his dad, John Adams. Young John Quincy, though just a teenager, became fluent in French and, of course, eventually became the president of the United States, like his dad.
When I ran for this job, I promised myself that I would not let my elected position or political ambition rob me of my relationship with my wife and children. Like many of my fellow citizens, I work hard to coordinate my work, my trips and my responsibilities in such a way as to accommodate special moments in the life of my family.
I work equally as hard to give Georgia taxpayers their money’s worth as I perform the duties as one of their public service commissioners.

Echols is a Georgia public service commissioner and can be reached at

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