ASCE Advocacy and Public Policy Activities: Federal advocacy captain, Fly-in attendee (5 or 6 times), key contact
1. How did you become interested in and get involved in advocacy as an ASCE Key Contact?
I got involved with my first fly-in as a member of the Central Ohio section board. Central Ohio always encouraged a board member to attend the fly-in. Later, as president of the ASCE Ohio Council of Local Sections, I attended again. Ohio Council discusses numerous legislative issues so I felt it was important to get more engaged in advocacy. The more I was involved, the more I was interested in continuing to be an advocate.
2. Has your advocacy experience as a Key Contact helped you improve skills you utilize personally or professionally?
Being an advocate has definitely assisted me as a professional. Going into a meeting or participating in outreach with individuals I may not know personally has increased my confidence in being able to make an argument on legislative issues. I am now more aware of issues facing our profession as I am personally engaged in conversations.
3. As a public employee how have you overcome the conflicts that many members in similar roles face when serving on behalf of ASCE?
I am fortunate to work for a public agency that is very supportive of its employees becoming involved in professional organizations. I make sure that my opinions are on behalf of ASCE and not my employer. When I write an op-ed I make sure my supervisors are aware of what I am stating so as not to create a conflict of interest. In one instance where the local newspaper ran an article on transportation funding for county agencies, the county engineer and I were both interviewed. He spoke on behalf of our agency and I was asked to speak on behalf of ASCE for a national perspective. The key point for me is to keep my supervisors informed of activities or discussions with media that they may read about in the paper.
4. What have you found rewarding about your Key Contact efforts? Is there a particular memorable experience you can share?
The most rewarding part of being a key contact or federal advocacy captain is feeling that you can make a difference or be heard. It may take numerous meetings or discussions but I have found eventually I can make an impact. I have had positive results with representatives that don’t even represent me but represent Ohio. I was able to get a local congresswoman to co-sponsor a piece of legislation that included an adjustment to the federal gas tax. A few weeks after meeting with her staff I received an email from her office saying that she had co-sponsored this legislation. I also received a personal call from a congressman thanking me for an op-ed published on line where I referenced his piece of legislation in a positive way. More recently I was contacted by a senate staff member who I have met numerous times at the fly-in asking for additional information on ASCE’s updated “Failure to Act” report.
5. What advice would you give to someone interested in getting involved in advocacy at ASCE?
Do not be intimidated. Participating in ASCE’s annual fly-in or even a state legislative day is a great way to get started. The Government Relations and Media Relations staff at ASCE has always been extremely helpful in preparing me for meetings when I ask. Don’t feel like you have to devote a tremendous amount of time early in your advocacy. You will develop more confidence over time which will lead to you wanting to be more involved.
BECOME A KEY CONTACT!