CAPE GIRARDEAU - Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and her staff kicked off four days of rolling up their sleeves Monday as they began the "On the Road and On the Job - Washington and Missouri at Work" tour of the Eighth Congressional District.
Staff from Emerson's Washington, D.C., office and district offices in Cape Girardeau, Rolla and Farmington will spend the week working in jobs related to the issues they work on in Emerson's office.
"Everybody on the staff is participating," said Emerson. "Most important are my staff from the Washington office who really work on policy most of the time."
"We are all very excited about it," said Dana McGilton, one of Emerson's four legislative assistants who specializes in agriculture at the Washington office. "I'm doing everything from milking cows to serving food."
McGilton was "very impressed" with both the number of counties served by the Bootheel Food Bank in Sikeston as well as "with what an efficient operation she has serving so many locations. It was very, very impressive."
Other agriculture related stops for McGilton this week include visits to a cotton gin and a rice mill.
Kara Lyons of the Cape Girardeau office followed her visit to the Kennett branch of the SEMO Health Network with some time at the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center in East Prairie. "I didn't realize all the services they provide there," said Lyons.
Lyons explained she had heard about the Susanna Wesley Center's after-school program from a friend but was surprised to find out the center also has a domestic violence center, provides transition housing for abused women, and has a drug and alcohol program among its many services and programs.
"They service a much, much larger group of people."
Lyons will return to East Prairie to learn more about the Meals on Wheels program at the East Prairie Nutrition Center as well as to visit Doyle Elementary.
Emerson is also working various "every day" jobs this week including radio and television broadcasting, billing and filling prescriptions in a pharmacy, patrolling with the Sikeston Department of Public Safety and operating the crane at the construction site of the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge named after her late husband.
"It's been really very interesting," said Emerson Monday on her way to scan groceries after leaving the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department. "The jobs I have done so far all require an amazing amount of skill for which I have even more admiration."
When it's all over, Emerson said she hopes they all come back with "a renewed understanding so we might go back and do our jobs better.
"I have long believed that the best policy to make is smart policy. But you can't write smart policy without knowing how it will affect people at home who have to live and work everyday within the parameters of those policies," said Emerson. "It is really important to put a human face to it."