Doug Collins plans to head to Washington after the holidays with his Bible, pictures of his family and a small, plastic Eeyore figurine from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons his family sent him while he was serving in Iraq.
“Eeyore has been with me for a long time when I was pastoring,” said the newly elected 9th District U.S. House representative. “I had gotten over there (to Iraq) and one day I got a little care package from the family, and there inside was Eeyore. It went on the little desk beside my bed and when I got back, it went again to the (state) Capitol with me. And Eeyore’s now going to make the trip to Washington.”
On a recent visit to the Collins home, family members were spread out in the game room in the basement, which was completely decked in Christmas decorations, as was the rest of the house. The two boys, Copelan, 16, and Cameron, 14, occasionally threw in comments as Collins talked, while his 20-year-old daughter Jordan played with Mickey the chihuahua.
The new congressman sat next to his wife of 24 years, Lisa. They’ll celebrate their 25th anniversary in June.
“She’s still the absolute light of my life,” Collins said. “She’s a very strong lady.”
The Collins family plans to stay in their North Hall County home while the new congressman commutes to and from Washington. Collins said he plans to be home most weekends and work in Washington on Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday, depending on the voting schedule.
“I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the district,” he said.
His wife, who has taught at Mount Vernon Exploratory School in North Hall for more than 20 years, said she has experienced running the household alone while her husband was gone working in the state Capitol or overseas. Collins spent nearly five months as an Army chaplain in Iraq between fall 2008 and spring 2009.
“The kids are older now and I have a job and I have responsibilities, and so life’s still going to continue and not miss a beat,” Lisa Collins said.
She said the family will miss their dad, but they’ll stay in constant contact while they’re physically apart. Her role is to be self-sufficient so her husband can focus on his job, she said. While he was in Iraq, she told him what he needed to know and saved the rest until he came home.
“I sort of look at (this situation) the same way,” Lisa Collins said.
Collins will have a bunch of family and friends to cheer him on when he’s sworn in Jan. 3 to serve as representative of the new Northeast Georgia district, the state’s 14th House seat. The Gainesville attorney and former state representative won a hotly contested Republican primary, then was elected in November with nearly 77 percent of the vote.
He’s still looking for an apartment in Washington and said he will live in his office for a while when he first gets there.
“I’ve got a nice cot picked out and we’re going to be ordering that pretty soon,” he said. “We’ve got a place where I can shower and I’m going to be working when I’m up there.”
He was recently in Washington for orientation and said the experience was humbling.
There are some real problems that have to get fixed, he said. Collins will face votes for the first time the day after he’s sworn in, but he doesn’t know yet what they will be. He said it will probably depend on how the “fiscal cliff” issue involving an extension of tax cuts is resolved.
Collins already has been appointed to the House Judiciary, Foreign Affairs and Oversight, and Government Reform committees. He plans to address lake issues, which will include specific Lake Lanier concerns, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He also wants to address ethanol issues, which affect many area farmers, and government efficiency.
“I made a promise to the people of the 9th District I would never forget what I run on, and I will never do that,” he said.
Collins plans to spend Christmas and the time around it together with his family. He’s just finished reading “Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman — from World War to Cold War” by Michael Dobbs. Perhaps Santa will give him a Tom Clancy book for Christmas, he joked.
Asked if this Christmas will be different, Copelan interjected that he was 16 years old now. His parents laughed.
“They’re teenage boys — they don’t share too much verbally,” Lisa said.