ASCE Advocacy and Public Policy Activities: Federal Advocacy Captain, Fly-in Attendee, Pittsburgh Section Government Relations Committee Chair, Past State Government Relations Committee, Past State Report Card Chair
1. How did you become interested in and get involved in advocacy as an ASCE Key Contact?
I participated in a bus trip to D.C. in 2002 with a small group of (non-ASCE) young professionals from Pittsburgh to advocate for what is now called Complete Streets. This gave me a taste for advocacy and a desire to know more about infrastructure policy. The ASCE key contact program was a great way to learn about infrastructure issues, and it taught me to be confident when taking the next step and advocating in face-to-face meetings with elected officials, policy makers and the public.
2. Has your advocacy experience as a Key Contact helped you improve skills you utilize personally or professionally?
The training available through the key contact program has strengthened my public speaking skills and understanding of policy making. Most importantly the training sharpened my strategic thinking. To advocate effectively, a person needs to understand all sides of an issue and recognize the forces influencing the other side. This type of thinking has numerous beneficial applications within our industry from personnel matters, to conflict resolution on projects and defining project goals with clients.
3. You are highly involved with mentoring and investing in younger members. Can you talk more about your motivation behind and experience with that?
I entered the profession during a recession so it was down time for hiring engineers. I have not run into many engineers in my cohort and the few I have met typically are not very engaged in advocacy. I developed a passion for advocacy and witnessed that younger engineers wanted to be more involved than my age group has been. I believe that having more engineers advocate is critical to improving the profession, and I am eager to help young engineers become advocates through mentorship and support. It is rewarding to help enthusiastic but inexperienced engineers grow in expertise and confidence. Their growth motivates me to continue progressing as well, so I find it very enriching.
4. What have you found rewarding about your Key Contact efforts? Is there a particular memorable experience you can share?
What comes to mind is the relationships I have built and the opportunities I have been given. I have met some very good friends from all across the country through the key contact program. One of my most memorable experiences was being asked to testify to a state committee on infrastructure early in my advocacy career. I found myself at a table with microphones and a panel of elected officials sitting before me. I flashed to a scene in the Godfather and wondered, “What the heck am I doing here?” But the confidence I gained from the program allowed me to give my testimony successfully and strengthen my confidence in speaking publically on infrastructure issues. Another experience I found amusing was going to the state capitol and advocating for funding and then going into the capitol rotunda and finding every amusement park mascot in the state there. Civil engineers are just one of many voices, so it’s important we speak up but keep everything in perspective.
5. What advice would you give to someone interested in getting involved in advocacy at ASCE?
Have patience because policy takes a long time to evolve. So when you start out not being experienced, don’t be afraid. Read a lot and ask questions of fellow ASCE members and staff. Don’t be discouraged because some legislation or funding you supported doesn’t get passed or get full funding. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will America’s infrastructure be rebuilt in a day.
BECOME A KEY CONTACT!