By TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON
My retirement is effective the first day of your service in the new Congress. While I do not pretend to have captured the secret to effective tenure in the House, I do have some random, but hopefully helpful, ideas to convey.
1. While party loyalty is relevant, your first obligation is to your constituents and your conscience.
2. The other party will have ideas and legislation that are worthy of consideration. Don't reflexively condemn everything that flows from the opposite party.
3. Top-level committee assignments may be very helpful in your career, but be certain your selections are also guided by your own personal inclinations and your district's needs.
4. Civility is always in style. You can stay true to your philosophy and your district without an adversarial attitude and action.
5. Good staff can make, or break, a new member. Make your selections, at home and in Washington, very carefully.
6. Enchanting as life can be in the nation's capital, never forget that your district is far more important and permanent.
7. You need to make, and develop, good relationships with your colleagues. However, the 700,000 citizens you represent are most important. They are the best antidote for "Potomac fever."
8. Choose your agenda carefully. Your identity, as a member, will be governed in part by your legislative goals.
9. Prioritize your family. They have been your foundation before you were elected, and will be after you leave. Don't let Washington make them secondary.
10. Don't be afraid to admit you make mistakes. Don't be unwilling to change your mind. It is human. It is responsible as well. Always be humble.
11. Relax and enjoy yourself, appropriately. Your spiritual and physical well-being will guide your life as a member of Congress.
12. Never forget that you are one of only 435 congressmen and congresswomen in a nation of over 300 million people. It is a privilege. You should thank your constituents, and your God, every day.
I wish you well. I hope you enjoy your years as much as I have. Good luck.
U.S. Rep. Timothy V. Johnson has served Illinois' 15th congressional district since 2001.