She wasn’t going to go...but is oh, so glad she did

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By Alice Du Pont

Jeanette Wynn wasn't going to the inauguration. Typically she goes to Washington, D.C. on business at least four or five times a year, and she wasn't up for the crowds or congestion. And she had attended the inaugurations of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Wynn is president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She currently represents about 125,000 Floridians from Pensacola to Tallahasee who work in state, county and municipal governments, as well as university employees and a limited number of hospital workers. She is also international vice president of AFSCME, which represents about 150 million people worldwide.

She is no stranger to politics and worked in the Obama campaign by organizing Operation Big Vote, the Democratic Party's Election Day push to get voters to the polls.

"There were so many people who worked to get Obama elected so I just didn't worry about going. It crossed my mind but only briefly," she said.

Getting her there was on someone's mind because a few weeks after the election, large white envelopes started arriving from the inaugural committee, the Democratic Party of Florida and the office of Sen. Bill Nelson. Before she knew it, Wynn had invitations to and seats at the public concert, the Southern Ball, the reception given by Rep. Corrine Brown (D.-Jacksonville) and the offer of a special viewing spot in the Senate office building from Nelson.

Wynn and her aide had a room waiting for them at the Washington Hilton, only a block and a half from the Senate building.

"When we arrived, a packet containing all of our credentials was at the front desk. Everything we needed was in the packet, because you had to show different colors of passes as you made your way to the different events and there were a lot of checkpoints. You had to show your invitation and credentials before they would even allow you to go on to the next checkpoint area. There were excellent directions to everything from the moment I stepped out of the hotel," she said.

But even the best-laid plans hit a few glitches periodically. Wynn said that on the day of the inauguration she stepped out of the hotel at 8:30 a.m and, like everyone else, she was greeted with bitter cold. She decided to take a taxi but couldn't get very far because many of the streets were blocked and she didn't want to walk.

"We got out of the taxi and got into a rickshaw. The driver took us as close as he could and we had to walk about what seemed like a mile," she said.

"People were so nice and respectful. It was a great event and I'm really happy that I decided to go," she said.