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Manzullo reflects on last day in Congress

Don Manzullo’s last second representing Illinois’ 16th Congressional District was a second before noon Thursday. A second after noon, he had a new job.

“I had a two-second break,” he said.

Manzullo, a 68-year-old former Republican congressman who has represented much of McHenry County for two decades, will draw upon his experience as the new president and CEO of the Korea Economic Institute of America. Manzullo described KEIA as a nonprofit policy institute that will “bring the countries together on economic and political issues.”

The institute states its mission is “to broaden and deepen understanding among Americans and Koreans about the U.S.-Korea alliance, the value of the two countries’ bilateral relationship and the issues the two countries face.”

Manzullo has served on the Asia subcommittee in the House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs since he took office in 1993. For the past two years, he was chairman. Manzullo said he always has had an “intense interest” in Asia, and that he was asked to lead the organization.

The final vote Manzullo cast was “aye” on the controversial legislation that would avert the “fiscal cliff.” As he watched the debate with Judy Biggert, an Illinois congresswoman who also was voted out of office in 2012, Manzullo said he was surprised by the toxic tone of the debate.

Manzullo described the run-up to his final vote as chaos.

“It wasn’t even controlled chaos,” he said. “It was absolute, total chaos.”

He described the current partisanship gripping Congress as a social and structural problem. Many members, he noted, do not bring their families to Washington. As a result, they become commuters and strangers to one another.

“It’s an assembly of people who simply don’t know each other well enough to have a level of decency and disagree with each other while being decent,” Manzullo said.

Manzullo defeated Democratic incumbent John Cox in the 1992 election, and held the seat representing a section of northern Illinois, including much of northern and western McHenry County, until Thursday.

In 2011, Democratic state lawmakers redrew the state’s legislative districts, pitting a number of Republican incumbents against each other. Manzullo ran against U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, in the Republican primary in March and lost. The new 16th District includes no part of McHenry County.

Manzullo said he did not have words of advice for his successor, just rules of thumb to follow.

“He knows he has to stay close to people and meet their needs,” Manzullo said. “That’s the definition of a representative. That’s something you always work at – the needs of people.”

Manzullo listed his work with manufacturing companies and the House’s manufacturing caucus – of which he was a founder and co-chairman – as being some of his legislative achievements. Manzullo said he helped pass legislation that gave manufacturers a 9 percent tax deduction on any item manufactured in the United States.

“It’s my first love and where we spent most of our time,” Manzullo said of manufacturing.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, who now represents all of McHenry County but Algonquin Township in the newly drawn 14th District, said he will miss working with Manzullo in Congress.

Hultgren called Manzullo a great teacher and mentor during their time working together, and said he was always an “incredible advocate” for constituents in his district. In his new position at KEIA, Manzullo will continue to be an important resource, Hultgren said.

“He will be a very important voice with all the opportunities that come with the growth in Asia,” Hultgren said.

Don Manzullo

Term: 1993 to 2013

Alma mater: American University; Marquette University Law School

Preceded by: John Cox

Succeeded by: Adam Kinzinger

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