Rep. Donald Norcross had the ultimate high-level meeting Monday, chatting with President Obama aboard Air Force One while flying between Washington, D.C., and South Jersey.
"It was one of those pinch-me moments," said the Camden Democrat, a union official elected to Congress just over a month ago.
"I'm on Air Force One, thinking it wasn't too long ago I was an electrician working in a manhole at the refinery — and here I am flying with the most powerful person in the world."
Norcross joined New Jersey's U.S. senators, Robert Menendez and fellow first-timer Cory Booker, on the presidential aircraft for a round-trip flight from the nation's capital to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Obama spoke to a crowd of about 3,000 people at the base, expressing gratitude for the military's performance.
"First and foremost, the trip was intended to say 'thank you' to the troops," Norcross said. "There were some Gold Star parents at the base, which brings home the reality of war."
But the congressman said he tried to advance the region's interests during a conversation with Obama.
"We talked about jobs, the economy and South Jersey," Norcross said.
"I took the opportunity to mention how important the joint base is to South Jersey and how we must make sure it remains in the forefront of our defense."
Norcross noted Air Force One, a converted Boeing 747, has private quarters for the president near the plane's nose. According to the White House, the 4,000-square-foot, three-level presidential area includes an office, conference room, medical suite and two galleys that can feed 100 people at a time.
Moving back toward the tail, areas are reserved for White House staff, presidential guests, the Secret Service and the press, Norcross said.
"The president was very courteous in coming back and sitting down and having a few moments," he added. "Anytime you have that opportunity, it's a good thing."
The lawmaker said he was able to make the trip in part because Obama postponed plans to visit the joint base earlier this year. Norcross, who took office Nov. 12, is completing the unexpired term of former Rep. Rob Andrews, a Haddon Heights Democrat who left Congress earlier this year.
Norcross also indicated the White House might also have appreciated his vote in favor of a pending budget bill.
"They were lobbying very hard for votes," Norcross noted. "We were able to work together."
The congressman said he kept one souvenir from his flight — M&Ms in a box that, like Air Force One, carries the White House seal.
"They're going to the grandkids," Norcross said of the candies.