Right now, a pen or a keyboard will be far more valuable to you than a crystal ball. One can endlessly speculate about how a new set of policymakers will act on a range of issues, but there is an activity that will be better for you strategically and emotionally: building and/or maintaining relationships.
You already know which issues have the greatest impact upon your community, and you don’t need to wait for the introduction of any specific legislation to share your views. Start reaching out to policymakers now, and you’ll be better prepared when the direction of state and federal policy becomes clearer in the coming weeks.
Send your elected officials congratulatory notes—even if they weren’t your pick. If you want your elected officials to work together and be more positive, a quick note is a great way to be a catalyst for collaboration.
- Offer to be a resource. Do you have a particular area of expertise, unique experience with a specific issue, and/or the ability to connect policymakers to other persons who do? Invite your elected officials to call upon you for help and serve as a connector. Like many local officials, our state legislators are essentially volunteers supported by a small number of professional staff. They are expected to learn a lot about a wide variety of issues, and they succeed by identifying trusted advisors throughout the state. Become one of those advisors
- Tell success stories more often than you complain. Has your Town received funding, benefitted from a particular program, or had a positive experience with a government agency? Letting your elected officials know how your/their constituents are being helped should be a proactive and continuous process—not one that you only engage in if a program is threatened. Feedback over time has more value than that offered in quick bursts just before a hearing or vote. Large volumes of email on the same issue—coming in all at once—can overwhelm and frustrate legislators during a busy legislative session.
- Invite your elected officials to visit. If you have a special event coming up, now is a good time to put in a “save the date” request. If you have an infrastructure, conservation, or other project that was made possible by a state or federal program, show it off. Offer elected officials a tour of your municipality—even if they’ve seen it before. Many businesses are more comfortable hosting elected officials during the calmer setting of a non-election year.
Send your notes now. Things get busy soon with the biennial budget process, committee hearings, and other commitments. Don’t get lost in the shuffle. New state legislators attend orientation on November 29th and 30th, and the first legislative session day will take place on January 4, 2017.
It doesn’t take a lobbyist to secure meetings with legislators, and a few thoughtful notes is a small investment to spread goodwill and make sure your interests are well-represented. Send notes to your:
- Two U.S. Senators;
- NH Executive Councilor;
- NH State Senator; and,
- State Representative(s)
A complete list of General Election winners is available from the NH Secretary of State at this link: this link.
Remember – we can disagree without being disagreeable. Being anything less than eager to offer and provide help to other elected officials at the state and federal levels—regardless of party affiliation—only makes you less effective on behalf of your community. Those officials will always find someone willing to help. Why not have it be you?
The suggestions above apply between municipalities, too. Today is the first day of the NH Municipal Association’s Annual Conference and this is the NHMA’s 75th Anniversary year. Perhaps you’ll try and find at least one other attendee who you can help in their town or city?
New Hampshire’s municipalities provide great examples of elected officials, individuals, and organizations working in partnership to stretch limited resources and make their communities stronger. Let’s show our state and federal officials how it’s done.
I hope to see you at the conference!
Selectman, Town of Grantham