Rep. Jack Bergman, 70, a Michigan Republican, talks about the shooting at last year’s GOP baseball practice, the quality of his staff and the bugs in his district.
Q: What has surprised you so far in Congress?
A: Right on the front end, I was concerned where was I going to get top-quality people to populate my staff because I had not had exposure to the staff level here in the building. I was just blown away by the quality and the motivation of the young people — largely late 20s, usually somewhere in that area — seeking employment on the staff. We had to tell some really top-notch people, “You finished No. 2.” I was wowed, still am.
Q: You are a retired three-star general in the Marine Corps Forces Reserve. What perspective does that bring to Congress?
A: There’s only one way to get experience and perspective, and that is to live life and to get involved. My choice to stay proudly affiliated with the military, the United States Marine Corps, for such a long time, allowed me to do things — to be part of everything from planning to operations, to different units, large and small, over a 40-year period. So when a member of Congress comes to me and asks me about something to do with the military, I have to usually start it by saying, “How detailed do you want me to get?”
Q: What do you think has been the most challenging day in Congress?
A: Well, June 14 got real interesting with the shooting on the baseball field. It was a very instantaneous reminder of how quickly life can change and how you have to be ready for anything. As a commercial pilot — as a Marine, but especially as a commercial pilot — my job was to take responsibility for the safety and welfare of people, flying them across the country, around the world.
I’m a very serious guy. Now, I like to think I have a sense of humor, but my wife says, “You’re not funny. Don’t try to be funny, don’t tell any jokes.”
[Take Five: Doug Jones]Q: If you could have any other job besides one you’ve had, what would you do?
A: By the way, I’ve never had a job. I’ve had wonderful experiences that happen to allow me to earn a paycheck, if you will, and make money to live a nice lifestyle.
My next endeavor: I really think some kind of combination of teaching and writing.
[Take Five: Karen Handel] Q: What’s something about your district that people might not know?
A: Right now, it is the best time of the year to be in our district because we can have bonfires on the ice. All you have to do is come to our district maybe three times. Come once during the winter, once during the summer, once during the fall — and the only reason I didn’t say spring is because it’s bug du jour. If you like bugs, great!
Last book read: “The High Cost of Good Intentions” by John F. Cogan. A month ago I finished “Dreamland.”
Pet peeve: I’m blessed to have many people in my life who start their sentences in the middle of the thought, and I’m expected to figure out what it is they’re actually talking about. I’m married to one of those.
Cats or dogs: I like both. We don’t own animals because we’ve always traveled so much.
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead: [Group dinner with] Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Clinton.
Closest friend across the aisle: I could talk to Darren Soto about anything.