This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic and was double-bylined with Derek Lacey. If you’ve read my stuff before, you can probably guess which bit is mine…yes, it’s the anecdote about the curious fifth-graders and awed kindergarteners at the end.

The congressman who represents Caldwell County used stops in Lenoir to fill most of the last day of a tour that featured stops in all 17 counties he represents, before ending the tour last night with a town hall meeting in Morganton.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-11th, stopped by a number of downtown businesses and spoke with the owners. He also tried his hand at tossing pizza dough with Octavio Piccolo, owner of Piccolo’s Pizza. Meadows noted how much more activity downtown has now than it did years ago.

“The exciting thing is seeing the revitalization of a city,” he said.

At a fundraiser luncheon with the Caldwell County Republican Party, Meadows spoke about several hot-button issues, including current turmoil in Egypt and Syria, the Affordable Care Act and the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He criticized the Obama administration’s foreign policy as ambiguous, saying that on foreign policy, “you need to stand for something and stand firm.”

Meadows said he does not support U.S. intervention in Syria, where a civil war has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the government troops have been accused of using poison gas on civilians. Meadows said he thinks Syria, which is made up of a number of ethnic and religious groups that have an uneasy past, is destined to dissolve into three separate countries.

He also called the situation in Egypt, where violence has followed the military’s removal of a democratically elected but Islamist president, “more troubling.”

On a proposal favored by some Republicans in Congress to shut down the government unless Democrats agree to defund the Affordable Care Act, Meadows said that he doesn’t want to shut the government down, but he thinks the threat is the only leverage House Republicans have to combat the ACA. Separate bills could be passed to keep paychecks going to the military, and Social Security and Medicaid payments will go on even if the government shuts down, he said.

“The more we see (of the ACA), the more we realize it’s not ready for prime time,” he said.

After lunch, Meadows visited Davenport A+ School, meeting with administrators and teachers before taking a tour of the school and taking questions from students, including “Is Area 51 real?” “Have you been on TV?” and “Are you friends with the president?”

As Meadows visited a kindergarten class, students politely shook his hand and showed him the worksheets they were completing. But one student, Kenneth Phung, was more interested in the law-enforcers than the lawmakers.

“Are you the police?” he asked Meadows. Meadows said that he wasn’t, but he introduced the kindergartener to Lenoir Police Chief Scott Brown, who was standing in the back of the room. Phung’s eyes went wide as he shook Brown’s hand.

“See?” Meadows said later, as the school board members and aides filed out of the room. “I knew I needed to run for police chief.”