Nunnelee already juggles new demands

TUPELO – By mid-morning Wednesday, the voice mail on Congressman-elect Alan Nunnelee’s cell phone was full and rejecting new messages.
Supporters, well-wishers, friends and family were calling to congratulate the Republican on his triumph over incumbent Democrat and current U.S. Rep. Travis Childers in Tuesday’s general election.
“By the time I’d return one call, two more would come in,” Nunnelee said later that day.
Less than 24 hours after the polls closed, the Tupelo businessman and current state senator already was juggling the many demands placed upon an emerging congressman.
He spent the morning with his family, some of whom drove from all corners of the Southeast to see him. He spent the afternoon returning voice mails. And he said he’d spend the evening with his campaign staff to strategize the next phase of his life.
“We’ll be making an announcement on transition” Thursday, he said. “Then we’ll start dealing with the details … I’ll be putting a transition team in place.”
Expect the announcement to reveal at least some insight into whom Nunnelee will name to his congressional staff, where he’ll locate his district offices, as well as how he’ll take over the unfinished business of his predecessor.
Childers, who has been the district’s representative since May 2008, has offices in Tupelo, Columbus and Hernando. He also has about 20 staff members, including a district director, communications director, chief of staff, caseworkers, field representatives and assistants.
The team not only tracks congressional legislation and represents Childers at various events, but they also help constituents navigate an often complex bureaucracy to get needs met. Veterans aid, Social Security, grants and small-business assistance are among the top priorities.
“Congressman Childers called me (Tuesday) night and was very, very gracious,” Nunnelee said. He “offered his staff’s assistance and designated a point person within his staff to identify all constituent needs in their various states of processing.”
In the meantime, Nunnelee still must consider his state Senate obligations. Until he resigns, he continues to hold the District 6 seat and serves on nine legislative committees, including the powerful Appropriations Committee, which he chairs.
Nunnelee said he’ll meet with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant later this week to determine the best way to exit those roles.
Then, on Nov. 14, Nunnelee will make his first trip since the election to Washington, D.C., for freshman congressional orientation and to attend a meeting of the House Republican Conference, the official organization of the House GOP.
The group will select its officers and discuss nominations for Speaker of the House and Majority Leader.
U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, is expected to become the next Speaker of the House, and U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., likely will become the next Majority Leader. Both men came to the 1st District to stump for Nunnelee during the run up to the election, and Nunnelee said he’d support both in their bids for the roles.
The next Congress convenes Jan. 3. When it does, Nunnelee hopes to serve on House committees most relevant to Mississippi. He said he’s interested in health care, as well as agriculture and appropriations.
Childers currently serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Agriculture Committee.
Nunnelee said he’ll meet soon with Republican Congressman-elect Steve Palazzo of Mississippi’s 4th District and incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper of the state’s 3rd District to discuss committee appointments.
“We think it makes sense to coordinate our interests,” he said, “and to make sure we maximize Mississippi’s interests.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal