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Office Space: Bringing Back a Bit of the Bayou

Not every office on Capitol Hill greets visitors with a chain saw. Or an alligator head.

But Rep. Jeff Landry’s workspace has a special Louisiana flair.

Reminders of New Orleans are spread throughout the Republican’s D.C. digs in the Cannon House Office Building, which he scored by getting the third pick in the office lottery earlier this year.

With posters of the New Orleans Saints decorating the walls, bottles of Tabasco sauce lining shelves and Community Coffee Co.’s brew ready for guests, taking a quick trip to the Big Easy is as simple as stepping inside Landry’s office.

But back to that chain saw.

The impressive office centerpiece hadn’t always been part of his decorating plan, Landry said. Even getting it had been a complete surprise, the Congressman added — his constituents in Houma gifted the chain saw to him after a town hall meeting.

“It was kind of weird because when I got there, they were signing it, and I said, ‘Oh, maybe they’re raffling this chain saw off for some, you know, charitable event,’” he said. “And when the meeting was over, they presented it to me and said, ‘Listen, this is what we want you to go back to Washington and use on the budget and the deficit,’ so we thought we’d put it right here in the office. It certainly is an eye-catching piece of the office.”

But it might not always stay safely in the confines of his Cannon office. Landry said he has some big plans for the chain saw — and his fellow Members might want to watch out, he joked.

“I may bring it to the floor one day if they let me,” Landry said. “I haven’t had the right time yet. But I certainly will have no problem bringing it down to the floor of the House of Representatives.”

Like the chain saw, many of the items in Landry’s office that made the trip from Louisiana’s 3rd district to Capitol Hill offer the first-term Congressman a reminder of his campaign. Above the Bible that his mother gave him after his election hangs a large photograph of former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards with Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford at Louisiana State University. He calls it his “bipartisan picture.”

“I bought this picture back in, oh, 1995, ’96, and I’ve always had it at home, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is a good one, my bipartisan picture, I’ve got two Democrats and two Republicans in it, so no one can fuss at me and say my office is not bipartisan,’” he said.

Landry also decided in advance that he would hang “One Nation Under God” by Jon McNaughton in his office. The image depicts quite a political and religious hodgepodge with Jesus, historical figures from American history, U.S. soldiers and various other citizens making a collective appearance in front of the Capitol and Supreme Court.

“I have this painting here that I bought when I was running, and I kept it home and had it framed,” Landry said. “I said if I got elected I would hang it in the office. It really symbolizes a lot of what we need here in this country. … It’s a picture of America, and it kind of touched me when I saw it.”

Then, of course, there’s that alligator head.

It’s a bit of an office mascot, actually. Landry’s friend, who owns an alligator skinning and processing factory back home in Louisiana, gave the office its bit of the bayou.

“We’re hoping that he swallows up the national deficit,” Landry said, laughing. “No, we got people, if they don’t behave, when they come down to Louisiana, we got a couple of live ones just like that.”

Sometimes, he added, the team sticks the menacing head on the office’s main table for special guests.

“When we have people who we really want to get a point across to, we just kind of set it up and let them look right down the throat of the alligator,” Landry said.

Kids who stop by the office are huge fans of the alligator and love trying to stick their heads inside the mouth.

Between the posters and paintings, Landry also keeps personal pictures — such as those of his wife at Mardi Gras and his son at the swearing-in of the 112th Congress. “It’s always good to have the family close to you when they’re kind of so far away,” he said.

Another thing that’s been good to have nearby, he said, is something from his home district to spice things up: Tabasco sauce. When he arrived in D.C., Landry bought bottles for every freshman Member and had the world-renowned hot sauce company make a personalized label for each one. He said he wanted to give his co-workers “a little bit of lagniappe, a little something extra, while we debated issues here in Washington.”

Even with all the personal flair that Landry’s brought to 206 Cannon, the focus has always been on keeping the Big Easy style at the forefront.

“I think that’s one of the things that you see in this office is everything from back home,” he said. “The alligator, and I guess the chain saw — we use a lot of chain saws in Louisiana anyhow — but you know, the alligator, the crawfish festival, Tabasco, LSU. … This is their office. You know, this isn’t my office. This belongs to the people of Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional district. … I try to make it as part of Louisiana as we can.”