Mr. Conaway leaves Washington

Joking immediately that there was no red carpet in the elevator for his final “farewell interview” U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway goes out as he came in – with good humor, kindness and grace.
As the eight-term Republican prepares to retire at year’s end he reflected on his time as the District 11 U.S. representative and his plans for the future all the while being hailed with words not always used to describe successful politicians in our time.
Humble, moral, consequential, character, class.
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Conaway, a native Texan, grew up in Odessa and graduated from Permian High School in 1966 after playing on Permian’s first state championship football team. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M University-Commerce in 1970 and then served in the Army at Fort Hood.
When he returned to the Permian Basin he landed with Price Waterhouse and settled in Midland where he would work with another hometown favorite, former President George W. Bush, as chief financial officer for Bush Exploration.
Conaway, like Bush, is one of very few who are hailed as hometown heroes by both Odessa and Midland.
Many, like Conaway’s lifelong friend Phil Fouche, say it took someone like Conaway to successfully run for what was a newly-formed District 11 all those years ago.

Conaway won the seat in what was then a new district of 29 counties in West Texas beating out a number of challengers to represent a sprawling district with ties to oil and gas as well as agriculture.
Conaway sailed to easy victories during the times he had an opponent since that first win in 2004. He has remained popular with constituents during his tenure and was able to bridge the occasionally acrimonious gap between Odessa and Midland.
Fouche recalls the phone ringing when Conaway made the decision to run for Congress. “I started to receive calls from people in Odessa questioning a CPA from Midland who was running for Congress – the classic Odessa-Midland issue,” Fouche said. “I told everyone who called, Mike was raised in Odessa and lives in Midland… Mike will represent all of his district, not just Midland or Odessa. The whole crazy big District 11 has been represented like no other.”

Fouche called Conaway “the most moral person I have ever known.”
Their friendship goes back years, including as part of the first state championship team at Permian High School in 1965.
Fouche is proud of his friend’s service.
“He has been my friend for 60 years and I could not have been more proud of him. He has left a legacy of listening, action, kindness, and doing the right thing for District 11, Texas and the USA,” Fouche said. “He has made Odessa and West Texas so proud … but he still talks too fast … and watching him prepare his English muffin for breakfast with peanut butter and honey is like building the first computer … very complicated but fun to watch.”
Fouche also bragged about the “fantastic” staff that Conaway has. But no one is prouder of that staff than Conaway himself. In fact, he gives them all the credit for his time as a congressman.
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He said his six district offices are filled with staff members who love people and it shows.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of stories where someone in this district’s lives are just a little less difficult due to efforts by my team. I’m proud of that,” he said. “I can keep good people to take care of folks in the district.”
When talking about his coming retirement, he was suddenly a bit wistful but joked that he will find something to do as his wife “won’t want him hanging around the house all day.”
The outcome of the presidential election, which was still up in the air during this farewell interview, made him feel a bit like he was giving up when there was still a fight.
When he announced his retirement in August 2019 the economy “was going like gangbusters and Trump was headed to a second term,” and then COVID hit and oil crashed. “I have never quit in the middle of a fight ever … I don’t want to feel I am letting the people down,” he said.

His successor, August Pfluger, Conaway said, will do fine for the people of District 11.
Pfluger had high praise for Conaway.
“Mike Conaway served with character, class, and distinction. He stood up for the oil and gas industry, farmers and ranchers, and our military,” Pfluger said via email. “Most importantly he is a man of faith, and he carried himself with exceptional integrity. I am proud to have been his constituent, and grateful for he and Suzanne’s service to this country.”
Pfluger joins a house still controlled by the Democrats, but Conaway said the gains the GOP made this election in the house are all owed to the coattails of President Trump. “Biden had zero coattails for the Dems in the House.”
He supported the president challenging areas where there were alleged voting irregularities. He said voters turn out because they expect the process to be fair and conducted properly.
“We can’t have that happening…and I don’t know if there is enough fraud to change it … I know the hard left is criticizing Trump for not conceding, but he is right to pursue the cases.”
Conaway also said the coming COVID vaccine is thanks to the work of the Trump administration.
“Operation Warp Speed, take the personality of Trump aside, this will go down in history as one of the most amazing federal government accomplishments ever. It’s stunning what all these guys have done to make this work.”
Conaway said a Biden administration will change the name of the project and some of the faces involved and that to “the victor goes the spoils” but that it was the Trump administration that pushed the vaccine through so quickly.
On Friday Conaway posted on Facebook that he had just taken the vaccine.
Conaway is the ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture and also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is a deputy Republican whip, a position he has held since the 112th Congress.
Like most in political circles, he is waiting to see how the Senate runoff races in Georgia play out and warns that in Georgia voters can live there for as little as 30 days and get to vote. “They (the Democrats) are flooding those zones and someone is paying for that … the Dems will leave no stone unturned to buy this election.”

Conaway has been front and center often during his time in D.C.
He’s proud of his work on the Farm Bill of 2018 and his work on the Armed Services Committee. His work on intel is also something he is proud of.
“The biggest was pushing the Department of Defense to audit … and some things that due to intel I can’t tell you.”
It also fell to Conaway to lead the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election – a tough position for any member of the president’s own party.
Conaway talks glowingly of his staff and the hard work they have put in over the last 16 years. “It’s such a positive experience to be a member of Congress. I love it. I love right now, this second.”

He said he doesn’t have a “worst” experience although he pointed to June 2017 when a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers during a batting practice in Alexandria, Va., as the darkest experience.
Conaway was on first base, House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was at second base fielding baseballs and Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., was on third base during the standard batting practice when the shooting began. The gunman was killed and several others were injured.
The ups and downs of a political job haven’t dampened his positive attitude and he said recent months, despite the pandemic, have been spent on a farewell tour of his sprawling district. Sometimes in person and sometimes virtually, Conaway said he has struggled to convey how thankful he is for the opportunity to serve.
“It’s tough … showing gratitude and appreciation … There aren’t enough words,” he said. “This job is stunningly important. I’m not important, but the job is important.”
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He said he went into the service with eyes wide open and that he has missed family time, which he hopes to make up now. “I did it knowingly and it’s one of those sacrifices you make because I love the job and it is important enough to make that choice.”
He’s proud of having “probably more town halls than any other member of Congress” and said he hopes Washington hasn’t changed him.
“Suzanne’s goal was to keep my head the same size and the not let me get caught up in how other folks want to tell you how great you are,” he said. “She reins that in and tells me ‘take out the trash, big time.’”
He said he has always respected the job and that it hurts him when someone in Congress doesn’t live up to what the job should be. “We have a poor reputation sometimes among the people and that hurts me. It is a worthy institution enshrined in our Constitution and when members bring disrespect or cause people to think less of the body as a whole it hurts me.”
He said he thinks he is the same guy who headed to D.C. 16 years ago, but also acknowledges that he is not the exact same guy. “I always think of what can I do better and I don’t take compliments well.”

Would he do it all over again?
“In a heartbeat,” he quickly answered. “I wouldn’t be leaving now if father time and the opportunity to lead and be a leader had not evaporated.”
But he’s optimistic about the future and says 2022 will see the GOP take the house back.
His work in D.C., despite his dislike for compliments, earns high praise from those in his district.
“Mike Conaway is remarkable because he is one of the few members of Congress who has been consequential in office,” State Rep. Brooks Landgraf said.
“But what sets him apart from others is that he was able to do all of that while keeping his faith in Christ and his relationship with his family at the center of his life. All Americans should be so lucky to have a congressman like Mike Conaway.”

Thank you, Chairman Conaway

By Congressman Mike Conaway’s staff
Mr. Chairman,
In preparing for you to leave office, we have had the opportunity to reflect on the immense impact of your public service. We have seen and spoken to Americans from all walks of life – the residents of District 11, farmers and ranchers, service members, and others – whose lives were made better by your time in Congress. But perhaps the group who has benefited the most from your time in office was us, the members of your staff who have had the great privilege of calling you our boss.
The stories we will tell about our time working for you will be of a man who regarded his office with reverence and undertook his service with joy. We will look back on your devotion to West Texas and the welfare of your constituents; your diligent work to be better prepared each day; and how you grappled with every difficult decision that crossed your desk.
It has been an honor to witness firsthand your selflessness after hard-fought victories, your optimism in the wrenching defeats, your grace under pressure, and your unending reserve of humor and forgiveness. But, perhaps most of all, we will remember your kindness and decency, and how you treated those around you with respect and the House of Representatives with dignity.
For each of us, these stories are unique, but for all of us they form a portrait of how one should serve others and be a good steward of God’s varied grace.
As you leave the halls of Congress, your legacy will endure within all of us, including the countless constituents and Americans who you have impacted and inspired throughout your time in office. Thank you for letting us be one small part of it.
Team Conaway