U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, who represents Mississippi's 1st District, debuted a new Web site Thursday on the Internet.
To access U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker's Web site use the following address: http://www.house.gov/wicker/welcome.html
HED: Wicker now offering variety of services on the Web
By Marty Russell
Congressman Roger Wicker's administrative staff likens it to opening an office in every home in Mississippi's 1st District that has a computer and access to the Internet.
Wicker, a Republican from Tupelo now finishing his first term in office, debuted his site on the World Wide Web Thursday. It contains access to some of the most frequently sought-after constituent services, such as how to become a page or intern, how to request a flag that has flown over the Capitol, arranging White House or Capitol tours, or nominating someone for an appointment to a military academy.
But it also brings the day-to-day operations of the U.S. House home to cyberspace constituents by providing up-to-the-minute accounts of what is happening on the House floor, in committees and what the schedule for the rest of the week looks like.
It also allows constituents to either praise or pan their congressman instantaneously via the interactive link.
"Roger Wicker wants to be accessible to every person in the 1st Congressional District," John Keast, Wicker's administrative assistant, said of the reason for going on line. "We replaced Mr. (Jamie) Whitten, who did so much for this district, and we wanted to follow that example by moving the 1st District offices into the 21st century."
While no one knows exactly how many Internet users there are in north Mississippi, Keast said he was surprised by the number of requests for computer access to Wicker during a recent series of town meetings.
"I went with him to a Rotary Club meeting and someone was asking him if he was on the Internet," Keast said. "Then, in a town meeting in Ripley, someone asked what's his e-mail address. There are a lot of people in our area who are just as cutting edge as anywhere else in the country."
Not just Wicker
In addition to being able to instantly transmit comments, suggestions or verbal tirades to their congressman and access information about Congress itself, Wicker's Web page also offers links to many other sites on the Internet.
Users can access federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration and the Department of State as well as many state agencies via Wicker's home page.
He also includes, under the heading "Congressman Wicker's Conservative Connections," links to groups such as the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, Empower America, Citizens Against Government Waste and Americans for Tax Reform.
Keast said the listings are not endorsements of those groups but are provided for information because of the nature of many of the calls to Wicker's office.
"We have a very conservative district," he said. "We get people calling wanting to know where they can find information on this and that, and we decided to take it a step further. This is the kind of thing we routinely handle by phone."
The Web page also offers links to less political sites on the Internet with Mississippi connections including Oxford's home page, Rankin Elementary School in Tupelo and even the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
And under his "Personal Picks" category, Wicker offers links to the Atlanta Braves home page, the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the U.S. Air Force and the Southeastern Conference.
"Being a smart congressman, he chose to put the SEC on there," Keast said.
Constituents who leave messages at the Web site will have their messages acknowledged just as if they had written the office via regular mail or called by phone.
"We feel like we have a staff capable of administering the Web site," Keast said.
The state's two U.S. senators are considering the leap into cyberspace. While both currently have a page on the Senate's Internet server, it is not as interactive as Wicker's Web page and does not contain links of particular interest to 1st District residents.
Both also have sites on what is known as the "Gopher" portion of the Internet, but those locations also aren't as interactive or as extensive as Web pages.
The sites normally offer only an e-mail address, a biography of the senator, links to their assigned committee and basic information such as office phone numbers and addresses and the text of recent speeches.
"We've had a home page for several months," said Beth Day, a spokeswoman for Sen. Thad Cochran, who said the senator got an e-mail address in September. "We're working on putting something together and upgrading our page to a Web site."
Susan Irby, a spokeswoman for Sen. Trent Lott, said Lott also was considering setting up a Web site.
"We're in the process of developing a Web site, but we don't know yet if it will be interactive," Irby said. "We haven't made that decision yet."
Back in Wicker's office, the link is so new that officials don't know yet if they've hit on the right topics and links.
"But one of the great advantages of having a Web site is that modifications can be made," Keast said. "If people have suggestions about links or services that should be on there, let us know."