Jim Renacci said he never had aspirations of being a congressman.
The self-made millionaire from Wadsworth is serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representative, and more could be in the offing. If he was asked by the Republican Party to run for Ohio governor, he said he might have some interest. Renacci, 57, said if he thought he could do some good, it might be something that makes sense.
"This country has been so good to me," he said Friday during a talk at Wadsworth High School. "I've already had my career. Public service to me is not a career. It shouldn't be a career.
"Today, if I can give back and I could see that I could make Ohio better for all of you in the future, I would consider running for governor. Today, I'm happy where I am at. I'm in Congress. I'm on the Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee. What I really want to do is get tax reform done."
He represents the 16th district that extends from some of the western suburbs of Cleveland down through Medina and Wayne counties.
Renacci owned Renacci-Doraty Chevrolet in Wadsworth when he first got into elective politics as Wadsworth's mayor from 2004-08.
"I ran it for five or six years," he said. "I turned it around and made it profitable. Then one day in 2009, General Motors went bankrupt. The federal government stepped in. I got a letter saying your Chevy dealership was going to be taken away from you. That was a tough blow. I was shocked the federal government would step in and take a business away from me. I was so mad that I decided to run for Congress."
He was part of the Class of 2010 that converged on Washington, D.C.
"There was a major change in Washington," he said. "There were 100 new members of Congress. People were fed up, especially with Republicans. We ended up getting 86 seats in the House of Representatives to try to change things."
Renacci told the students that his business career started as a certified public accountant at Grant Thornton in downtown Pittsburgh, where he specialized in health care.
One day, Renacci, a native of Monongahela, Pa., got a job offer from a company in Wadsworth. He asked his prospective employer to double his salary and give him a new car.
"When can you start?" his new boss replied.
Renacci said he almost dropped the phone. He had no intention of leaving Pennsylvania to come to Wadsworth, but he kept his word. Soon thereafter, he started his own health care company at age 24.
"I took the company from having about $100 to $100 million," he said. "I had 3,000 employees at one point."
He later owned and operated a sports franchise in the Arena Football League, the Columbus Destroyers, that went to the Arena Bowl title game in 2007. He was also partial owner of a minor league baseball team, the Lancaster (Calif.) JetHawks.
Renacci answered a variety of questions from students, covering issues during his talk that lasted an hour and 20 minutes. Some highlights:
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, should be called "the Unaffordable Care Act," Renacci said. He said President Barack Obama did three good things with the Affordable Care Act: he eliminated pre-existing conditions; eliminated caps on individual diseases, and allowed students to stay on their parents' health care insurance plans until they are age 26.
However, there were several pitfalls, Renacci said, including increased taxes and premiums and a number of jobs that were eliminated.
"We have a situation where we have an Affordable Care Act that's not working," he said. "What we need to do is repeal it and replace it with something that is going to work. We still have the same amount of people not covered. We've taken care of the poor. We've taken care of the people who don't have any money. But the working poor, the Affordable Care Act has hurt. Their premiums went up and their deductibles went up."
Responding to a question about whether Washington is dysfunctional, Renacci said the House of Representatives has 435 members and the Senate has 100.
"For anything to get done, you have to have the House to agree, the Senate to agree and the president to sign off on it," he said. "There are always people who will go against the grain. To get 435 people to agree on anything is not easy. Our Founders knew it was not going to be easy. It's dysfunctional for a reason."
He said the national debt stands at $18 trillion. "These are numbers you should be worried about," he said. "If nothing is done, we'll add $10 trillion to the debt in the next eight years."
He said Republican candidate Donald Trump could become president. "If you think somebody will come in there and tell 435 people in the House and 100 people in the Senate how to do things, it's not going to work," Renacci said. "He may win. If he wins, he'll have to change the way he does things. He can't call people stupid."
He said he doesn't support legalizing marijuana. "If the state of Ohio supports it, I'll support it," he said.
Renacci is a big supporter of the Second Amendment, having a concealed carry permit.
He worries about the Islamic State.
"The president made a major mistake saying they are the JV team," Renacci said. "They have shown they are the varsity. We can't worry about containment. We have to eliminate them."
He said the Social Security system was formed with the expectation that people would live until they were 65. "Well, let's face it, people don't die at age 65," Renacci said. "If we do nothing, Social Security will be bankrupt in 2029. It's not that far away. Maybe we need to raise the (retirement) age up to 70. We want to keep it alive."
Asked about issues in Ohio, Renacci said, "The biggest issue right now that I am concerned about in the state is the heroin epidemic. I think we need to take a strong look at that. Too many youth are dying. Too many issues are coming up with this drug situation. We need to look at some of those things."