With only days left in my 20-year tenure as your congresswoman, I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for the privilege of a lifetime.

Our community is truly extraordinary. Throughout the United States, people know and appreciate the North Bay. If they have not visited, they know someone who has. When you tell people you represent Marin and Sonoma counties, it means something to them.

But what makes this place even more remarkable are the people who live here. I could not have asked for more conscientious and civic-minded constituents. Our voter turnout rates are always among the highest in the nation. Our level of activism, engagement and awareness is second-to-none.

To say nothing of our sense of selflessness and compassion — it is pretty remarkable that one of the most affluent congressional districts in the country is also loudly and proudly progressive on social and economic issues. We believe in shared sacrifice, in the most fortunate helping out those who have fallen on hard times. (Maybe that explains how a former welfare mother like me got elected 10 times.)

My staff and I have always considered the people of Marin and Sonoma counties as our employers. Every one of my campaigns was considered a performance review. The fact that you gave me high ratings every two years was certainly gratifying.

My agenda in Washington was never to please the pundits, to mimic the conventional wisdom or even to march lockstep with the leadership of my own party. I went to represent you and fight for your values.

Yours are the most important voices I listened to throughout my service in Congress. On issue after issue — the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, health care, children and families and their education, civil liberties, environmental protection and more — I have followed your example, guided by your conviction and inspired by your boldness. You have been the wind at my back. My accomplishments are your accomplishments.

This is a community of idealists, and I have reflected that as well. I get a gentle ribbing sometimes from House colleagues and others who accuse me of wanting "a perfect world." Guilty as charged, I say unapologetically. I didn't get elected to settle, or to shrug my shoulders at big problems.

If our Founders could declare their objective of forming a "more perfect union," why shouldn't we strive for a perfect world? I'm absolutely certain that if we don't aim for a perfect world, we won't come close to providing a safe, healthy and secure world for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

I am retiring from Congress but not from activism. I will continue working toward all the goals we share, as national president of Americans for Democratic Action and in a new role at the global humanitarian organization CARE. And as I fight for peace and social justice, I will continue to draw strength and important lessons from all of you.

Happy New Year, and thank you again for the honor of serving you.

Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, has represented the 6th Congressional District since 1993.