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A time for some fond farewells

By By Sonny Callahan
Congressman
With this column, I am officially marking the end of my 18-year career in the United States House of Representatives.
As I said when I first announced my retirement earlier this year, my decision not to return to Washington was not an easy one, but I felt the timing was appropriate both personally and professionally.
I do want to assure you that my absence from the halls of the Capitol building will not mean a decrease in the quality of representation for the first Congressional District of Alabama.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. At the time of my announcement I said I felt – and still do to this day – that the current and new members of the Alabama Delegation will continue in the proud tradition of public service of which I have been so honored to be a part.
Jo Bonner, your congressman who will be sworn into office in early January 2003, is a fine man and a devoted public servant. I had the privilege of having Jo serve as my chief of staff and press secretary for nearly all of my 18 years in Congress, and in him I have seen the qualities of a truly great representative and leader:
Compassion. Dedication. A strong work ethic. A desire to help anyone and everyone who needs it.
Above all else, he possesses a genuine desire to make south Alabama all that it can be – and more. I've heard Jo say many times; people don't want a handout; they want a hand up,
In your next representative, you'll find that helping hand. As one of his constituents, I have every confidence that be will represent me – and you – extremely well.
Some parting thoughts
I want to take this opportunity to tell you a bit about what it has meant to be your representative in the halls of Congress.
We should all be proud to live in a district with such a distinguished history and diverse economic base. From the white beaches of Baldwin County to the piney woods of north Clarke County, and from the seafood capital of the Gulf Coast in Bayou La Batre to the courthouse dome of Monroeville, this area has something that keeps us all close to home – and draws countless new friends to this part of the state each year.
In good times and bad, in periods of prosperity and of difficulty, the people of the First Congressional District have never lost sight of who they are and of the proud past from which they have come.
And news of your perseverance and successes isn't limited just to this area. I can't begin to tell you the number of times during my career that one or more of my colleagues from the House of Representatives has approached me with a word of admiration or awe about some aspect of life here on the Gulf Coast.
We have much for which we can all be proud. My strong and positive feelings for my home state have always been evident when I introduce myself to someone new: "I'm Sonny Callahan from Alabama. "
Let me take this opportunity now to close with some parting thoughts.
Perhaps the greatest honor of my life has been for you to elect me nine times to be your representative in Congress. It has been a privilege and I will always be grateful.
There have been many times over the years when you have not agreed with some of my positions on various issues, and many of you have taken the opportunity to express your opinions to me.
Much more often than not, however, my office has received numerous short notes or telephone calls simply telling me to keep up the good work and that I've been doing a good job.
Regardless of your opinions, you always availed yourself of the political process and got involved by sharing your opinions, comments and criticisms. Numerous times during my career, your support and prayers were exactly what I needed to get through difficult votes on war, impeachment and other issues that had a direct impact on the folks back here in south Alabama.
Finally, on behalf of my wife Karen and my entire family, let me say "Thank You" for the faith and support you have demonstrated since that January day almost 18 years ago when I raised my hand and took an oath to serve and protect the Constitution and faithfully discharge the duties of my office.
I hope I'm remembered as someone who has done just that.
Take care and may God continue to bless each of you, your families and this great nation.