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Church member heads to Washington, job in Congress

Church member heads to Washington, job in Congress

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church member heads to Washington, job in Congress

By J.A. Buchholz / Nov. 15, 2008 {0940}

As a lifelong United Methodist, Suzanne Kosmas has always been led by her faith. She says that won’t change while she’s in Washington, D.C.

Suzanne Kosmas gets to know residents of the Guatemalan community she visited in 2007 as part of a mission team from her church. Photo #08-1060. Web photo only. For longer description see photo gallery.

Kosmas, a Democrat, was elected to Congress Nov. 4, winning Florida’s U.S. House District 24 race against Republican incumbent Tom Feeney. As she enjoyed the warm glow of victory with her family after the election, Kosmas set her sights on serving her first Congressional term.

The former state representative was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1996. She served four consecutive terms before term limitations prevented her from seeking the office again.

Kosmas said she didn’t initially have political aspirations when she was younger.

“I think it’s fair to say that I thought I was going to be the first female minister (in The United Methodist Church),” she said. “My father was extremely active in the church, and it helped to shape me. The church has always been central to my beliefs and strengths.”

Kosmas said many of those beliefs were shaped by the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church, which she said she has always found uniquely applicable to decisions being made by leaders.

Although Kosmas has been an active, longtime member of Coronado Community United Methodist Church in New Smyrna Beach, its senior pastor, the Rev. Robert C. Brown, said he believes 80 percent of the church’s members didn’t know who Kosmas was or that she was seeking office.

“We are a pretty large church with four services,” Brown said. “Suzanne sits in a corner seat in the balcony. She didn’t want (her campaign) to negatively impact the church.”

Brown said church members who weren’t aware Kosmas had sought office were introduced to her Nov. 9 when members who had run for a variety of public offices, whether successfully or unsuccessfully, were invited to the front of the church for prayer. He said he prayed for strength and wisdom for all of them.

“I think it was the first time many members realized who she is and that she is a church member,” Brown said. “She is just very low key, so it was very gratifying for me to pray for her and that she had the courage to do what God led her to do.”

Suzanne Kosmas (far right) and members of her church take a break from their work building a preschool during a mission trip to Guatemala in 2007. Photo #08-1061. Web photo only. For longer description see photo gallery.

Last year Kosmas followed God’s leading by joining a church mission trip to Guatemala, where she helped build a preschool and got to know fellow church members better.

“I had a great time, and it was a wonderful experience,” Kosmas said.

Church member and team leader Janet Bernhard said Kosmas “did the down and dirty work.”

“She was right in the trenches,” she said. “She didn’t want to run the show; she was very happy to be a team member.”

Although she didn’t know Kosmas before the mission, Bernhard said she had heard Kosmas’ name throughout the community, and she was so impressed by Kosmas on the mission trip that she volunteered to help with Kosmas’ campaign.

“I did telephone calling and knocked on doors,” Bernhard said. “Those are things I’ve never done in my life. I just felt I got to know her doing the trip and felt she would be an outstanding representative. I am just so excited about her win.”

Church member Joye Shaffer agreed. She and her husband also volunteered with the campaign.

“We are absolutely thrilled about her win,” Shaffer said. “She will represent us well with her honesty, integrity and willingness to listen. I am just so impressed with her work that I wanted to donate my time and money (to the campaign).”

Coronado Community United Methodist Church member Robert Shaffer helps stuff campaign envelops for fellow church member Suzanne Kosmas’ bid for the Florida District 24 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo #08-1062.  Web photo only. For longer description see photo gallery.
Kosmas, who has also owned the New Smyrna Beach real estate company Prestige Properties since 1979, said her duties in Washington will not prevent her from returning to her home most weekends.

“It’s very important to me to be able to have that spiritual charging,” Kosmas said. “It’s the reason you want to be in (church) service.”

When prevented from traveling back to Florida, Kosmas said she is looking forward to worshiping at the church she attended while growing up in Arlington, Va.

Whether out of the state or in New Smyrna Beach, Kosmas said she will remain true to herself and her faith will remain central to all aspects of her life.

“I am very optimistic about this next phase in the evolution of democracy,” Kosmas said. “I think it’s critical that we leave a legacy that represents the best of what America can be, both nationally and internationally. I hope that we can live up to the best of our ideals on which we were founded.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.