ASCE Advocacy and Public Policy Activities: State Government Relations Committee, DC Fly-In Attendee, State Advocacy Captain
1. How did you become interested in and get involved in advocacy as an ASCE Key Contact?
I became involved in ASCE advocacy after meeting Greg Scott while working on the Bill Peduto Pittsburgh Transition Team. He was energetic, invested in the project and region, and introduced himself as a fellow ASCE member. His top priority for the Parks and Recreation subcommittee was to get an asset management program in place. To me this seemed like common sense, having close family in facility management. Why wasn’t there an asset management system? How did they know when to maintain their light fixtures, trails, and even bridges within the parks? How did they know if the fixes they were proposing for drainage issues could be maintained or was there a more economical solution? Greg, having prior involvement, had lots of ideas and historical knowledge to bring to the table and gladly shared it. Although I was familiar with ASCE, I did not know the extent of the organizations involvement. He introduced me to the key contact program and in conjunction with the key contact program helped me along by informing me of upcoming events and ASCE’s involvement.
2. Has your advocacy experience as a Key Contact helped you improve skills you utilize personally or professional?
Yes, the key contact program provided the introduction to ASCE’s advocacy efforts. The two main skills that I have been continuing to sharpen by the advocacy program is listening, and responding as an organization. For example, we are listening when a long term transportation is released or when legislators are proposing cuts in infrastructure spending, and the Pittsburgh section would collectively respond with a letter to the organization or a letter to the editor in our local newspaper. In a meeting with state legislature staffers, we are listening when they suggest infrastructure spending is not appropriately managed and learned to respond to the legislative staffers with a clear cohesive message that it can be improved with proper tools. All of our responses were guided by ASCE’s policy statements and with help from ASCE staff. Professionally, this has helped me learn to listen and respond carefully, making sure that my messages going outside the company follow the same goals of my company and that when there is one message it usually gets through.
3. You sit on the State Government Relations Committee, which is rare for a Younger Member. Can you talk a little more about your involvement there?
It has been a great experience being exposed to such a wide range of disciplines with so much dedication and experience to bring to ASCE’s advocacy efforts. It has opened my eyes to the depth of the advocacy programs offered by ASCE and how there are so many opportunities to get involved. The people on the committee have shared their experiences and what has been effective in their regions, showing that there are so many creative ideas out there that have already been implemented through the State Advocacy Captains program and SPAG grants. My involvement has focused around information sharing. By sharing some of these experiences and their impact, we have tried to distribute to all levels of ASCE, all the way from the student level, and up to the section, branch, and region, and even further up to the board which makes the decision on the state advocacy program funding. Although it’s sad to be leaving the position due to my recent relocation, I am looking forward to the outcomes produced by the state advocacy programs.
4. What have you found rewarding about your Key Contact efforts? Is there a particular memorable experience you can share?
Seeing progress. Although I haven’t been involved long, in that short time we saw some results from our proposals at my first PA fly-in. When I went to the fly-in I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I know much of anything about stormwater or wastewater except that we were going to be talking about them. We received a succinctly organized presentation that morning on the key talking points framing ASCE’s position and the proposal, our reference materials, and how to present our topic. Then we were off to our meetings with the legislative staffers, assigned in groups by whether or not we were a constituent. The meetings went so well, we even had one staffer ask us if we already had legislation drafted for our proposal. Later, we saw PA H.B. 1394 proposed by Mustio, aimed at finding funding for stormwater and wastewater infrastructure.
5. What advice would you give to someone interested in getting involved in advocacy at ASCE?
Begin with the key contact program. It’s easy to sign up and you can get involved at your own pace. Weekly emails keep you informed on infrastructure in the news and ASCE advocacy events and programs. If you don’t have time to physically go to an event, you can respond to proposed legislation with just a few clicks by sending a pre-written letter to your state and federal representatives. Don’t shy away from an event if you don’t know the full in-depth knowledge on a specific subject that is getting pushed in your state. You know more than you think and your voice is heard.
BECOME A KEY CONTACT!