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Published Dec. 6, 2014
Updated Dec. 8, 2014

On the night he won the Pinellas County special election that captured national attention, David Jolly got a call from House Speaker John Boehner.

"Mr. Speaker, I want you to know two things," now-U.S. Rep. Jolly recalled saying in March, when he defeated Democrat Alex Sink for Florida's 13th Congressional District seat.

The first was that he would work "collaboratively," not combatively. "And I'd like you to know that eventually I'd like to go on the Appropriations Committee."

The 42-year-old Jolly got his wish and will take the plum assignment - becoming Tampa Bay's only representative on the committee - when the new Congress convenes next month.

At a time when Republicans are focused on cutting discretionary spending and traditional earmarks are banned, Jolly's position could take on added clout, making up for some of the lost ground that came with the death of Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who over the course of decades brought hundreds of millions in funding back to Pinellas.

Jolly made the case for joining the committee with the experience of working nearly 20 years for Young, who once chaired the Appropriations Committee and then its subcommittee on defense. Jolly and his allies worked in recent weeks to secure support from key Republicans.

"There were a lot of private conversations," he said, laughing, during an interview Friday.

"It's important for the region to have somebody on the committee," said Jolly, who joins four other Floridians on the panel. He said he could look out for funding for beach renourishment and infrastructure, as well as seeking to protect MacDill Air Force Base and other military installations.

Jolly said he would also focus on funding for Alzheimer's research and education, and combating melanoma. He said he would fight against efforts, which have come from his own Republican Party, to scale back Head Start.

Jolly said he agreed with the earmark reforms but noted it's Congress' duty under the Constitution to appropriate. One idea, he said, is allowing members to submit project ideas to the committee so they could be evaluated and put up against priorities outlined by the White House.