Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill Visits Montville Township High School AP Goverment and Politics Students in Scott Riotto's Classes
Representative Mikie Sherrill (D - NJ 11th Congressional District) visited Social Studies teacher Scott Riotto’s “Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics” students at Montville Township High School on Friday, April 5, 2019.
The freshman Congresswoman gave a very brief intro of herself before opening the floor to the forty-three seniors for questions. For nearly 40 minutes the class and Congresswoman Sherrill discussed current events, global concerns and the Congresswoman’s initiatives.
Sherrill took the oath of office in January 2019.
After pointing out to the students that she was a member of the first class of Congressional delegates to be sworn in “when the government was actually shut down,” Sherrill said: “So it has been kind of a time in our government where some of us have felt like Congress just wasn’t working as well as it should be. But, we’ve seen some movement since then.”
Sherrill explained that she is committed to working with both sides of the aisle to serve the will of the American people.
When, three minutes into the session, the Congresswoman opened the floor to questions, senior Blake Hunsinger was the first to stand, state his name and pose a question: “What specifically inspired you to run for public office?”
Most in the room were aware that Sherrill was a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot. But, in answering Hunsinger’s question, she outlined her journey from high school, to the U.S. Naval Academy, to 10 years in the U.S. Navy as both a helicopter pilot and a Russian Policy Officer coordinating U.S. and Russian Federation Navy interactions, to law school, to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, and her focus on federal prisoner re-entry programs where, she said, she was “helping people coming out of prison successfully re-enter our communities.”
Citing examples of issues where both conservatives and liberals had found common ground, but Congress was not taking action, Sherrill said she felt “Congress was less and less serving the will of the American people, less and less standing up for its constitutional responsibilities, so I decided to run for Congress.”
She noted the fact that important legislation which addresses issues that a majority of Americans agree on had not been getting heard on the floor of the House. It is these types of issues, where legislative movement could make a difference – issues like The First Step Act; where conservatives and liberals agree on crucial steps that need to be taken to reform the nation’s Criminal Justice System, and the fact that 97% of people in the United States agree on universal background checks for gun purchases --- that inspired her to run.
“It didn’t feel like Congress was acting as a co-equal branch of our government,” she noted. “Some of the policies that I thought were overreaching coming out of the Executive Branch; were unconstitutional coming out of the Executive Branch, I didn’t think Congress was standing up against as strongly as I would have liked to have seen. I also didn’t think that things that this country widely agreed on were being legislated on correctly in Congress.”
Over the past 25 years, Montville Township High School teacher Scott Riotto also hosted Sherrill’s predecessor, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, five times.
When asked if the former Congressman had given her any advice Sherrill said, “I have talked to several people who have worked with him who have been very helpful. I’ve reached out to him a couple of times but I haven’t heard back yet.”
She explained that as someone who represented the district for over 20 years, his perspectives on Picatinny Arsenal and the Gateway Tunnel Project could be very helpful. However, in other areas such as the Affordable Care Act and environmental issues she would like to see the district go in another direction.
Taxes, Health Care, Infrastructure and the Environment were the planks in the platform upon which Sherrill ran. The Congresswoman won the Congressional seat in November 2018 with 56.8% of the vote. Sherrill serves on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and is the chairman of the committee’s oversite sub-committee. She also serves on the House Armed Services Committee which she said was particularly important to her both because Picatinny Arsenal is the largest employer in the NJ 11th Congressional District, and because of her background in the military.
“The military is largely Republican,” Sherrill explained to the students when asked how her military career prepared her for political office. “So I have worked with a lot of people over the years -- and we have gotten missions accomplished over the years -- who had different political views than I do.”
Sherrill noted that not everyone in the country has had that experience.
“There are large enclaves across this country where people never speak to somebody who doesn’t think like them politically. I think that can be really harmful to our country,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill explained that she is committed to working with both sides of the aisle to serve the will of the American people. She said she believes there is common ground and that governing in a partisan manner is not beneficial. Explaining that there are members of both parties who refuse to work with members of the opposite party, Sherrill noted that that type of anger is a waste of time that does not serve Americans. Given her background in the military she is hopeful she will be able to help craft policy that will bridge the aisle and benefit citizens.
Following the discussion, AP U.S. Government and Politics students, Social Studies Teacher Scott Riotto, Supervisor of Humanities David Tubbs and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill posed for a class photo.
Following the discussion, Sherrill, the students, Mr. Riotto and Supervisor of Humanities David Tubbs posed for a class photo.