U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County, recently took The York Dispatch along for his drive to Washington, D.C., and a tour of his office and the Capitol. Below is a highlight from conversations during the day.
Platts said he's narrowed his post-congressional plans to three options.
1) Continue working in Washington, D.C., using his committee experience to work on educational or military policy issues,
2) Higher education leadership or administration, or
3) Running for Common Pleas Court in York County, or using his legal background and training "in some way."
"It's about service," he said. "It's not a step back or down."
He said he'll make a final decision in early to mid-January.
Getting on TV:
Platts rarely speaks on the House floor or on television, he said, because he gets to go home every day and speak to his constituents directly.
But he has taken some ribbing for standing in the aisle to shake hands with Democratic President Barack Obama for the State of the Union Address, an event for which he said he indulges the urge to take advantage of one of the benefits of his office.
"The kid in me says, 'Yeah, I want to be there, I want to sit 30 feet away from the president giving a State of the Union Address.' That just never wore off."Some people make fun of me," he said. "Eh, make fun of me, if you don't want to greet the president, the vice president, all the members of cabinet ...."At the 2012 address, Platts told Obama he was retiring, and Obama told Platts he was a class act, which Platts proudly said his mother could hear on TV. The president also recognized and waved to Platts' sons, who were sitting near first lady Michelle Obama.
Making the transition from congressman to another job:
Platts said he has worked very hard to stay grounded, and that will make the transition easier. His years in Congress have given him a world of experiences that could be applied in other positions, he said.
Platts typically eats a bowl of dry Special K or another cereal for breakfast, resting Tupperware on his passenger seat for the commute.
A recovering Mountain Dew addict, he said he changed his ways after being guilted by one of his sons, who is not allowed to drink much soda.
He typically eats a baked potato or a salad from the Rayburn House Office Building for lunch, but he would have eaten chicken fingers and fries before he started eating healthier.
Platts said he would like to be a role model, and that's one reason why he and his family staff the Salvation Army kettle for a day every year.
Sometimes, though, being recognized presents a quandary.
"I remember eating at an Eatn Park ... and people watching to see how a congressman disciplines a 5-year-old who's acting up," he said.
What he'll miss most:
Platts said he'll most miss the interactions he was able to have with American soldiers. He said he would also miss having the trust of all the people and the whole experience of being a congressman.
Over about seven hours, Platts mentioned his mother and father dozens of times. He said the couple taught Sunday school, coached and "believed in service to fellow citizens."
They taught him to live with integrity and were the best role models he could have had, he said.
Babs Platts is 79 and still works as a parking garage attendant in York City.
His father, Russell "Dutch" Platts, died of pulmonary hypertension 11 years ago, when he was 72, but Platts said the man still "guides me in spirit."
Russell Platts died June 25, 2001, months after seeing his son sworn in as a congressman and about a month after the son took his parents to meet President George W. Bush. Todd Platts keeps a mangled photo from that day in his wallet, pulling it out when he tells the story.
"My mom was a nervous wreck," Platts said. "When (Bush) leaned in and kissed Mom on the cheek, my dad and I looked at each other like, 'Oh, she's going down for the count.'"
Bush later sent a sympathy note on the passing of his father and talked with Platts about the loss, saying he couldn't imagine how he would feel when his father passed. Platts said it was the most touching interaction he had with the president.
"My dad, one of nine kids who grew up in a York City row house, my dad's passing was the subject of conversation between a president and a congressman who happened to be his son," he said. "This is the land of opportunity."
With all of the discussion about retiring and packing the office he called his "home away from home," Platts became emotional only once during the day, while talking about his father on the drive to D.C.
Through tears, he told the story of marrying his wife, Leslie. His dad, whom he describes as chivalrous, took him aside.
"He said, 'You will take good care of Leslie or you will face me,' and I was like, 'But you're my dad.' ... He was just such a gentleman. That's just how he was."
Platts said his father, a mechanical engineer at the company that evolved into Johnson Controls, was friends with everyone from the company president to the people who swept the floors.
He said he didn't care if his children turned out to be company presidents or people who swept the floors, as long as they did the best they could.
Platts has four siblings. Sister Pam Lee is York County Prothonotary. Brother Craig Platts is a forklift operator at Harley-Davidson's factory in Springettsbury Township. Brother Mark Platts is president of Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area, which works to preserve the culture and heritage of the Susquehanna River. Sister Jill Platts is an educator at Southern York School District.
Platts said it was "just meant to be."
The two met overseas in 1988, when he was getting ready for law school.
Platts was chaperoning a female cousin who was a Harvard student teaching English in Spain.
He was on a day trip to Monte Carlo, walking around with a "Let's Go" Travel Series book of things to see when two attractive American girls walked by (he remembers it was 10:30 a.m.) and ignored him.
But around 8 that evening, he was walking to the train station and saw Leslie and her friend again. (Leslie, he said, was wearing a light green summer dress and brown belt.) The girls, who had been backpacking, talked to Platts for about 90 minutes.
"I just knew I wanted to see Leslie again."
They exchanged addresses, and he credits their relationship to Northwest Airlines' $99 vouchers. The two lived in California together while she got her MBA at Pepperdine and he finished his law degree.
Platts, an avid fan of baseball, caught in his final congressional (Republicans v. Democrats) game earlier this year. In September, he pitched for a charity event at Sovereign Bank Stadium.
But Platts and his deputy chief of staff Bob Reilly offered differing viewpoints of the experience, which they aired during the drive to Washington D.C.:
"I only hit one person," Platts said, proudly citing the wild ball that smacked Reilly, who was sitting in his back seat.
"Yeah, he did," Reilly said sorely from the back. "I have the picture."
"He was crowding the plate," Platts countered in his defense.
"Yeah, well I took him to the track on the next ball," Reilly said. "Then I filled out a worker's comp form and he denied it."