SELMA – Congressman TJ Cox officially opened a district office at 2117 Selma St. to a packed house on March 3.

“We’re so proud to be here and proud of the part that Selma plays in what we want to do in serving the hard-working families of the 21st Congressional District,” Cox said to attendees that morning.

Democrat Cox was sworn into the 116th Congress on Jan. 3 having won the seat in tight contest against Hanford Republican David Valadao.

At the open house, Cox welcomed local civic leaders and organization representatives highlighting what’s been accomplished thus far during the first 200 days in Congress before talking about challenges that lie ahead.

Cox was accompanied by his wife Dr. Kathleen Murphy, a pediatric intensive care physician at Valley Children’s Hospital, and two of their four children, Thomas, a Lemoore High student and Jack who attends Edison High. Their two other children include Joe, 20 and Molly, 22.

Cox honored area students who served as interns over the summer at the office. These included Lemoore High graduate Ashlyn Frazier, Santa Clara University sophomore Robert Nunes, University High School graduate Jasleen Gill and Caruthers graduate Navkaran Gurm.

Frazier plans to major in history and become a museum curator. This summer, she set up their Library of Congress surplus books program at the office.

“She wants to become a museum curator and since there are a lot of museums in Washington, her next internship may be on the East Coast,” Cox said.

Cox said that the Library of Congress has millions of surplus books and Congressional members may pick up as many books as they wish to distribute to local organizations such as Veterans groups or children’s groups. Cox said Kern County’s Child Protective Services was a recent beneficiary of this book surplus program.

“We picked up over 1,000 books. Groups have come out, and with a shopping cart, they pick out books and then we send them back to the office and deliver them to your organization. It’s such a benefit.”

Nunes, a political science major at Santa Clara, will intern with Cox this fall in Washington, D.C.

“This summer, he focused on outreach at high schools throughout our district.”

Gill will attend California State University, Fresno, as a political science major and then law school. She performed extensive research in order to complete a portfolio on each of the communities in the District.

“Each municipality or city has different needs. It could be a post office here, could be a hospital there, basic infrastructure, or a new police station or fire station. It’s important to get all that information in one place and have all the contacts we need so we can be in direct contact with them. Thanks for being a voice for those communities, Jasleen,” he said.

Caruthers graduate Gurm, who just finished his first year at the University of California, Los Angeles, is an economics and public affairs major.

“He focused on creating this resource list to share with our constituents. He’s been so instrumental in organizing our district office here. Hopefully we’ll see you in D.C., too,” Cox said. “That’s what we’re looking to do for these young people here in the Valley. As you continue to work through your careers, we’re here for you, too. You can always come back to us and look to us as a resource since you’ve been so helpful to us.”

Cox touched on some of the legislative efforts he’s been involved with during his first 200 days in Congress.

“We’ve been working on legislation to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, to make quality health care affordable to all of us. We’ve been working on immigration issues, on Veterans’ issues and water issues which are so important to us.”

Cox said that earlier Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee Raul Grijalva had visited the area to get information about water storage needs. It was the first time in a decade that a Chairman from either party had been here, he said.

“He said, ‘thanks for inviting us. This has been eye-opening and I promise you, I’m going to work with you to get more water infrastructure so every citizen in the Central Valley can turn on their tap and drink the water.’ When we do that, we solve the problems with water supply and distribution and storage for not only the communities but for the ag industry as well. It would solve the problem across the board.”

Cox said as the chairman of the House’s Natural Resources Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigations, he had a meeting this past week regarding available resources needed to build infrastructure for water distribution and storage.

“We have a lot of things working there.”

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He also recognized representatives from the Fresno Housing Authority and touched on the dire need for affordable housing in the area.

“We have so many challenges coming down the pipeline from this administration. We’ve got to work together to provide quality affordable housing to everyone.”

Their office staff can assist locals with a number of personal needs to resolve issues with Veterans affairs, social security, Medicare benefits, IRS, workers’ compensation, federal student loans, housing, passports, visas, United States Postal Service, service academy nominations, federal grants and small business assistance, flag purchases and United States Capitol tours.

Cox recalled a Hanford town hall meeting where a veteran asked what he could about the climbing veterans’ suicide rates.

“It’s up to 20 plus veterans that take their lives every day. That’s shocking and unacceptable. This veteran organized a motorcycle ride from Hanford to the Arlington National Cemetery and they touched 21 states along the way to bring this awareness to veterans’ suicide. Based on that plea and that need, within the first six months, I got $10 million added to the National Defense Authorization Act. That’s been approved and signed into law for programming therapies and treatment for veterans’ suicide. That constituent’s voice turned into real action within six months. That veteran is here today, Chief [Jess Ahumada, Jr.].”

Cox also touted passage of the House of Representatives bill No. 6 as another recent accomplishment.

“One of the first bills we passed was H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act, to create a pathway to citizenship for our [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and [temporary protected status] recipients.

H.R. 6 would provide conditional permanent resident status and a roadmap to lawful permanent resident status and, eventually, U.S. citizenship for immigrant youth who entered the United States before age 18, have four or more years of residency, and graduated from high school (or the equivalent).

“We voted yes, the bill passed and I saw young men and women from the 21st District up in the gallery with tears in their eyes. I’m coming down the Capitol steps and they ran out to meet us. A young woman said, ‘thanks so much Congressman. I finally feel like someone cares about me.

That’s one there in making a positive difference in your lives. So what do you say? I’m here to not only work for you, but to deliver for you. I’m just so proud to be able to do that.”

Kingsburg Mayor Michelle Roman was among local political representatives in the audience. She said having a District Office nearby will give Cox’s staff a chance to see local needs first hand and give them a chance to enjoy what the communities have to offer.

“Hopefully they’ll see a need and react before we even have to talk with them. If we do have an issue, they can drive through quickly and meet with us,” she said. “It’s nice that if I need something I can hop right over, meet with staff very quickly and if I need to pick up a letter of support, or something like that, it’s nice to have it so close by.”

Roman said she’s already seen Cox in action for a major pending economic development for Kingsburg and the County.

“As soon as we walked in the door, he shook my hand and said, ‘Don’t worry. We’re working on T-Mobile for you. The staff is working for us and they’ve been working on letters of support and have stayed on that right away. That’s been something that’s been great and they’ve come to every single one of our meetings.”

Roman said she also hopes residents take advantage of the staff’s assistance on the variety of legal matters at the federal level of government.

“The public doesn’t realize all the things they can help with like help with a passport or immigration. One thing I always used, even before I was on City Council, if you’re going to D.C. and you want to get a tour of the White House or go see how Congress works, or get a tour of the Capitol or any of those government buildings, they can help you with that. You send in your information but it’s great because the staff can set that up for you.”

In introducing his staff, Cox said he wanted residents to think of the office and resources as theirs.

“I tell everyone that I work for you. I’m very serious about that and every one of our staff members, every one of our team, is here for that same mission. We work for you to try and make a positive difference in your lives. So this office is your office. We’re here to work for you every day.”

The staff members introduced included:

  • Communications Director Joel Kasnetz
  • District Director Gilbert Felix
  • District Scheduler Lindsey Madrigal
  • District Representative Cody Sedano
  • Constituent Services Director Virginia Penaloza.
  • Staff and Communications Assistant Araceli Garcia Munoz

To access Cox’s Selma office, stop by at 2117 Selma St., call 460-6070, or visit their website, https://cox.house.gov/. Their Bakersfield office is at 2700 M St., Suite 250B, (661) 864-7736.

To learn about services such as the student art completion, surplus books program, internships, assistance with a federal agency, tours and tickets, commendations and greetings, flags, grant applicants and military academy nominations, log on to https://cox.house.gov/services.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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