TUPELO — Mississippi’s newest member of Congress is renting a tiny apartment in Washington and has hired most of his predecessor’s staff.
Republican Trent Kelly told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal he’s adjusting to long days that often stretch into working sessions at night on Capitol Hill.
“My days are mapped out on a pretty tight schedule,” said Kelly, who took office last month. “Sometimes, it is hard to find five minutes during the day that are mine.”
With 29 years in the National Guard, Kelly is accustomed to a rigorous schedule. He said he’s in his Washington office by 8 each morning, “but a lot of times, they don’t start voting on things until 6:30 at night and go into the night.”
Kelly, 49, is a former district attorney who won a special election in early June to fill most of a two-year term started by fellow Republican Alan Nunnelee, who was 56 when he died of brain cancer in February. Nunnelee was first elected in north Mississippi’s 1st District in 2010.
Kelly said keeping most of Nunnelee’s staff has helped him.
“We get a sheet in the morning with things that are supposed to be voted on that night,” he said. “The staff helps by looking into the details and determining if there are any riders that we may be against tacked on to a bill. As you get the details, I can see where I stand on the issues or what issues I might have with that particular vote.”
Kelly said he’s still amazed when he walks up the Capitol steps.
“Sometimes I want to pinch myself,” he said. “Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett and countless others have walked not on steps like those, but they have walked up those steps. It made me realize what an awesome responsibility I have. This job is not a privilege. It is a huge responsibility.”
Kelly is renting what he jokingly calls “spacious accommodations” — a 550-square-foot apartment with a fold-down bed.
“It’s a place to sleep while I am in Washington,” he said. “I am not a political socialite, nor do I care to be one. I plan to come home every weekend that I can.”
Last week, he spent Monday in Tupelo, Tuesday in Byhalia, Wednesday in the Golden Triangle, Thursday in Lafayette County and Friday in Monroe County and Saltillo.
For now, Kelly plans to continue his career in the Mississippi National Guard. He’s a colonel and deputy brigade commander of the 168th Engineer Brigade that includes about 1,500 soldiers statewide. He has served three tours of duty in the Middle East since 1990.