Congressman-elect Bill Enyart's pledge to protect Scott Air Force Base got a big boost on Thursday, when Enyart was named to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.
Enyart, D-Belleville, retired in June with the rank of major general as commander of the Illinois National Guard. Enyart, a Belleville attorney, was elected Nov. 6 to replace U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, who retires Jan. 3, after 24 years representing the 12th U.S. House seat.
"On this committee, I will continue to be a strong voice and advocate for Southern Illinois families who have a loved one serving overseas," Enyart stated in a news release.
"Further, with Scott Air Force Base as our district's largest employer, it is crucial we have strong representation on this committee to ensure Scott stays strong and continues to grow," Enyart said.
Scott employs more than 13,000 military and civilian workers, according to the latest federal figures.
Enyart will serve on the same committee as the late U.S. Rep. Mel Price, who represented the 12th House District for 44 years -- until his death in 1988, resulting in Costello's victory in a special election to fill Price's seat.
Metro-east business and civic leaders hailed Enyart's appointment to the armed services panel at a time when the U.S. Congress and the White House are seeking to make deep cuts in military spending and other major components of the federal budget.
"I think that appointment is important for our area because of the impact that Scott Air Force Base has on the regional economy," said Ellen Krohne, the executive director of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, in Edwardsville.
A study the council conducted last year showed that Scott has an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion on the region, Krohne said.
Scott is the metro-east's No. 1 employer, said John Lengerman, the executive director of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce.
"You don't have to say much more than that," Lengerman said. "This is absolutely really good news."
Enyart is one of nine new Democrats -- including five freshmen -- appointed to the to the House armed forces panel, including fellow Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who was elected last month to represent the 8th U.S. House District, which covers suburban Chicago.
Duckworth, a severely wounded Iraq war veteran and Illinois National Guard member, worked closely with Enyart in her role as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
Enyart, along with other members of the incoming 113th Congress, is set to take the oath of office Jan. 3.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at email@example.com or 618-239-2533.