Gene Taylor works a room with a lot more confidence than he did as a freshman congressman.
"Absolutely," the congressman said. "If the truth were known, I was painfully shy."
After 15 years on Capitol Hill, countless interviews, and an infinite number of speeches, those days are over.
"It also helps that I've gotten to know a heck of a lot of these people," he said, while visiting with members of the Jackson County Chamber.
Taylor was the keynote speaker at the chamber's annual dinner. He was asked if he would rather be on stage, or out on his boat.
"That's a tough question," he said with a smile. "Everyone knows I love to fish. Everyone knows I love the water. But again, this is a very important part of the job."
Taylor's immediate job is to fend off republican Mike Lott, and return to Washington as the fourth district congressman. He said the best part of this final week on the campaign trail is "getting to see people. In many instances, it's people you don't get to see often enough, that would be the best part. If the next question is what is the worst part, I don't see much of my own family. Thank goodness my wife is my campaign manager. So I'm seeing a lot more of her during this campaign than in previous races when she was home when the kids were little. But it certainly takes time away from home."
There's one other thing the eight term congressman dislikes about the campaign trail. Taylor is 51 now. When he first convinced voters to send him to Washington, he was 36.
"Let's just say then I looked like my son, and now I'm looking a lot more like my dad," he laughed.
Moments later, a supporter gave the congressman a bear hug. She had never met him before, but she said his commitment to south Mississippi made him one of the family.
Besides Taylor and Lott, there is a third person on fourth congressional district ballots. Tracella Lou O'Hara Hill is the Reform Party candidate.