What do you do for a living?
I’m one of the United States Senators from the State of Arkansas.
How would you describe what you do?
What I do is represent the people of Arkansas in the United States Senate. Each State has two Senators that represent them and so myself and Senator Pryor were chosen by the people of Arkansas.
What does your work entail?
It entails all kinds of things; a lot of legislation, initiatives, and trying to be supportive of different projects in Arkansas.
When at home, I’m meeting with a lot of people and hearing a lot of constituents’ problems. We work with people that are having problems with various types of benefits, social security, veteran’s problems, etc.
Being a Senator or being a Congressman, these are public service jobs and it’s no different than any other area where you’re trying to help the public. I understand that the public doesn’t work for me, I work for them. So we work very, very hard to do just that.
We try to help them get through the paperwork and the bureaucracy so that they can get an answer. I can’t determine if they’re going to get that benefit or not but sometimes these things drag on for years so I’m just trying to make sure that that’s done in a speedy way.
In Washington it’s dealing with the legislation that comes before Congress and that involves all kinds of things, whether it’s health care, tax policy, energy policy, all of the things that really do make a huge difference to the average person living in Arkansas.
Right now one of our major focuses is job creation.
What’s a typical work week look like for you?
It’s really divided. I’ll spend 2 or 3 days in Arkansas and then 3 or 4 days in Washington. When I’m in Arkansas I’m all over the state visiting with people about various problems that they’re having or hearing them communicate what they’d like for me to do while in Washington. When I’m here in Washington it’s more legislatively focused in the sense of trying to determine how we can influence the particular bills that are on the floor during that particular week.
How did you get started in this career?
Well, I’m an optometrist by trade and I was part of a clinic in Rogers, Arkansas. I was really active locally on the fair board, the school board, and things like that, just trying to be helpful. Asa Hutchinson was the Congressman from the third district of Arkansas and he decided to accept the position to become the head of the DEA under President Bush. So there was a vacancy and I was visiting with friends and family and I just kind of jumped in and ran for it and was elected. Then, later on, I decided to pursue running for Senate.
What do you like about what you do?
Well, it’s a great honor serving the people of Arkansas and representing them. Every day is a different day and every day is a challenge. But the nicest thing about what I do is you get to help a lot of people and you can do that by using the power of the office for good and listening to people and trying to help them with their various problems. I’ve got a very good staff that works really hard to solve the various problems people are having.
What do you dislike about the job?
I think the hardest thing about my job is the travel going back and forth. You certainly need to be in Washington voting and representing there. But also you do need to get home to keep that vital link with what’s going on in Arkansas. So I’m home almost every weekend and traveling throughout the state. But it is difficult traveling back and forth to Washington, it’s hard on families. So I think that’s the hardest thing, the travel and the extended periods when you’re away with your family.
Editors note, follow up question- I’m just curious, do Congressmen and Senators fly commercial?
We fly commercial. I’m subject to random screening and go through security just like everybody else.
How do you make money or how are you compensated in this job?
I’m paid on salary by the government. I’m a government employee so I’m under the same system as every other government employee. I pay social security. My health benefit is the same as the person that works in the social security office.
How much money do you make as a US Senator?
$174,000 a year.
How much money do you make starting out as a Senator?
Each senator gets the same amount so there’s no seniority or graduated pay scale.
The only exception to that would be the Speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate. These are people that are essentially the highest ranking officers in the House of Representatives and the Senate. They get paid a little bit more.
Each Senator is paid the same though. They’re also paid the same as the House of Representatives and the Congressmen from those districts.
Would you say there are any perks associated with this job?
Well, I think that the job in itself is a great honor to represent the people of Arkansas and so I think that’s the major thing. There’s a lot of work involved and a lot of responsibility but it truly is a great honor.
I think the most challenging thing right now is we’re in a difficult time in our country’s history with the economy, the deficit, and all that’s going on throughout the world. So the decisions that we’re making are very, very important. It’s a challenge as we’re trying to work diligently to figure out what’s best for Arkansas and what’s best for our country.
What education and/or skills would you say are needed to be a US Senator?
I’m asked that a lot by young people that would like to go on to politics or would like to become the next Congressman or the next Senator. I think that the main thing is as you get into the working world do a very, very good job of what you’re doing. There are a number of different professions represented in Congress. There are accountants. There are lawyers. There are doctors, sheriffs, you name it.
But I think that probably all of them did a good job in their respective professions and were respected in their community. You have to be in a situation where you’re out trying to be active in the community. So I think the most important things are helping people, being active in the community, and then having the positive reputation that you’ll need in order to win these higher offices.
As far as skills, I think that one of the most important skills that you need to have is to be a good listener. I visit with essentially everybody who wants to visit with me and some people you can help, others you can’t. But you help everybody by listening to them and that’s very, very important. And I think you have to be willing to get out and be with people you serve. Being a Senator or being a Congressman, these are public service jobs and it’s no different than any other area where you’re trying to help the public. And I understand that the public doesn’t work for me, I work for them. So we work very, very hard to do just that.
I think you need to be somebody that’s comfortable with the public and is willing to kind of roll up your sleeves and listen and then follow through and do your best to solve their problems.
What is most challenging about what you do?
I think the most challenging thing right now is we’re in a difficult time in our country’s history with the economy and the deficit and all that’s going on throughout the world.
So the decisions that we’re making are very, very important. It’s a challenge as we’re trying to work diligently to figure out what’s best for Arkansas and what’s best for our country. And I think the challenge that we have right now is trying to get the confidence back in the system so that the average American is confident that the country is going to do well and in doing so that will create an atmosphere where people start hiring people, people will start spending money again, all of which will help the economy and help our country.
What’s most rewarding about what you do?
I think your greatest reward is the fact that you’re in a position that the office has great power. I don’t have any power personally but the office has power and so using that notoriety in trying to help people is very rewarding.
I get a lot of mail about people that had paid into the system all their life and maybe have become very, very ill, to the point that they were disabled. Everyone agrees that they are disabled and yet almost on their deathbed nobody in the particular agencies can decide that. And so they might be in the process of losing their homes and facing really difficult situations and we’re able to just get somebody to look at it and cut through the red tape and get those benefits. That’s just a little example but there are many, many other things that we’re able to do to help people and so that’s very rewarding.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
I think anybody that would like to get into public service in general, the key is to get involved in their community and to be very good at what they do. And you have to be somebody that’s honest and has integrity. And then again, I think for these kinds of jobs, you have to be a servant and leader. It’s easy to talk about that we need to do this and that but you have to demonstrate it too.
How much time off do you get or take with this job?
Not very much time. This job is pretty much all day every day. You get to do a number of different things that make it very interesting, you’re dealing with interesting people, you’re dealing with really significant problems so that’s what allows you to be able go all day every day.
I think one of the problems that you have in this position is literally every minute of my day can be filled up every day of the year from very early in the morning until very late at night. So you have to control that because if you don’t, like anything else, it can get away from you and that’s hard on families. Like everything you kind of have to balance things out. If not then it really does make it very difficult on families.
I’m blessed because the situation I’m in now all my daughters are grown. They’re not just dependent on me so that makes it easier. And because our kids are grown my wife is able to kind of go back and forth with me so we’re able to spend time together that way as opposed to having a young family with all of those demands in addition to the demands of the job.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
I think that’s a good question and to be honest I don’t really know what that would be. There’s a lot of talk about full retirement after two years of service and all those kinds of things, or Senators not having to pay social security.
I would like is to see us get going again economically, get people working, get rid of the uncertainty about job future and just kind of restore America in that regard. And there’s a lot of work going on to try and make that happen. You do that by empowering people though. You can’t do that through government. You do it by empowering small businesses and reducing the unnecessary regulation.
And I think that’s one of the most common misconceptions. People like Congressmen and Senators are under the same retirement program as the person that works at the IRS office or the social security office. And so now I think I can retire at age 59 ½ with the benefits figured the same way that it’s figured for every other government employee. So I think there’s misconceptions in the way that works.
What are your goals and dreams for the future in this career?
I would like to see us get going again economically, get people working, get rid of the uncertainty about job future and just kind of restore America in that regard. And there’s a lot of work going on to try and make that happen.
You do that by empowering people though. You can’t do that through government. You do it by empowering small businesses and reducing the unnecessary regulation. We need some regulation but the unnecessary regulation needs to come out. We need a fair and simple tax policy and a reasonable energy policy. Those are the kind of things that that I’m really interested in seeing happening. Working on and accomplishing that would benefit America.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
Well, I think that pretty much sums it up. The other thing is certainly that if people are in need or if they’re having a problem and need to contact us, they can go to the website. We have a newsletter that they can sign up for and get information as to what’s going in Washington. You can go to our website, or just Google John Boozman and you’ll find the official government site.
That’s a way that they can communicate their thoughts if they have ideas as to how we can do things better or if they’re having a particular problem then we can get in touch with them.