Congressional mementos

Aug 17, 2012

After losing a tough primary race, northern Illinois Congressman Don Manzullo is preparing for the next chapter in his life. That involves figuring out what to do with the many souvenirs the Republican has collected on the job. WNIJ’s Mike Moen offers a glimpse into the sorts of items a lawmaker amasses over the course of a long career.

After doing a quick eye scan of Manzullo’s Rockford office, you can tell this is a federal lawmaker who’s been around for a quite a while. Near the front door, longtime Manzullo spokesman Rich Carter is looking over a shelf of various items the Congressman has collected over his two decades representing Illinois’ 16th District.

“This is from the intermodal hub opening. The spike.  Remember when they opened that? When they did the groundbreaking on that in Rochelle?  August 27th, 2003” Carter says.

Carter then focuses his attention on something associated with one of Manzullo’s biggest passions.

The Eiger Lab chip is a tiny spur gear that was milled by a micro-machine. It was handed out at the ribbon cutting for the research center and business incubator almost a decade ago.  Manzullo played a big role in getting the facility opened. It fits right in with the main cause of his time in Washington; manufacturing.  

“If people don’t know that by know I’ve really failed at getting the message out” Manzullo says.

Manzullo says manufacturing isn’t the most attractive platform for a politician. But he has no regrets making it a priority, saying it’s a vital industry for the region.

In addition to the manufacturing gadgets, there are the some of the things you would expect to see in a lawmaker’s office, such as framed photos with dignitaries and constituents. 

But then Manzullo pulls out something, which at first glance, looks like it came from a storage room inside a high school gym.

“This old, beat up chair. It’s been painted several times. It’s a metal folding chair”

The chair Manzullo is talking about was presented to the Congressman by Rockford’s Crusader Clinic. Manzullo likens it to a trophy.

“The emphasis has always been on the quality of the care that they give the individuals.  And they really weren’t concerned about how the waiting chairs looked like. It’s an emblem of their frugality” Manzullo says.

There are also items in the office that might tug at your heart strings.

“What I have here, it’s about 20 pages of color paper that’s laminated. I got that at Barbour school in Rockford” Manzullo said while looking through a book created by 1ST grade students at the Barbour Language Academy. It features drawings and descriptions of the Congressman's "typical day."

“I’m doing yoga at 5 a.m. Then, at 7:00, I’m reading all kinds of newspapers. At 8:00, I’m in my limousine” Manzullo says as he reads the pages.

The book goes on to say that Manzullo’s “typical day” also involves playing basketball with President Obama, and having a cup of tea with the First Lady in the afternoon.

“It’s just an extraordinary book drawn by these 1st grade kids.  This will be one of the closest prizes to my heart as a member of Congress” Manzullo says.

So what’s he going to do with all of this stuff? Manzullo says he doesn’t know yet.  He says he has had some discussions about opening a private office, but the Congressman’s staff says there are no plans in place.  In the meantime, these items, and the stories behind them, will sit and wait until they’re hauled to their next location.  I’m Mike Moen, WNIJ news.