HERMISTON - Local businessman Perry Hawkins just returned from the trip of a lifetime in Washington, D.C.

Hawkins has been a remodeling contractor in eastern Oregon since 1998 and a certified state home inspector for more than three years.

He took part in the annual Congressional Tax Summit in the nation's capital early last week, where he won the title 2003 Oregon Businessman of the Year.

Hawkins attended a variety of forums during the two-day event. He also had the chance to ask questions of several of members of Congress.

"What was nice about this was they had cards, and aides went around and took the cards and they addressed every question on those cards," Hawkins said.

He met several members of Congress during the luncheons and banquets. But that wasn't all.

"I got to shake the president's hand on Tuesday night," Hawkins said.

It was a volatile time to be in the capital city. During his stay there was a standoff between police and a North Carolina man on a tractor. The president also alerted the nation that war was eminent and American forces attacked Iraq the day after the conference.

But Hawkins still was able to take in most of the sights of the town during the five days he spent back East.

"I took pictures of the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Watergate Hotel and the White House," he said. "I walked 22 miles. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me and I enjoyed every minute."

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