Today’s blog is a guest post from Kathy Capps, Grants and Risk Manager, City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department in North Carolina. Kathy is a Young Professional and attended her FIRST Legislative Forum. If you have never been to Legislative Forum or you are a veteran attendee, Kathy’s take on the experience is a great reminder why it is important to attend. Read on, comment and share!
Legislative Forum “Virgin” Speaks About the Experience
Is anyone ever truly prepared for their first time on the Hill? I thought that I was. I attended all of the webinars and educational sessions. I knew to be prepared: to only meet with staffers and not the representative or senator themselves, to be brief since the meeting won’t run longer than 15 minutes, to expect to have staffers that may not be excited about what you have to say or even agree with you. I was prepared for the worst – which in my opinion was that my message wouldn’t be heard and no amount of effort on my part would make a difference.
What I was not prepared for was the amazing experience I had on the Hill. I was paired for my visits with a veteran Leg Forum attendee for my state of North Carolina who knew how to present our information and stay to the point with “the ask”.
Our first visit was with a Congresswoman in her first term that ran for election with the Tea Party platform. She met directly with us and was very interested in one of our key priority issues for parks and recreation, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the 40 percent allocation for the State Assistance program. Since the program already had dedicated funding and would not contribute to the nation’s deficit, she was very interested in learning more. After our meeting concluded, her staffer even followed us out to the hallway and continued asking questions about the program and what they needed to do specifically to support our ask.
My second meeting was with Senator Kay Hagan’s senior staffer. The Senator has always been a strong parks and recreation supporter and has consistently supported our priorities. What was so interesting to me about this meeting is that the NRPA’s legislative affairs team had been meeting with the Senator’s staffers to see if she is willing to author a bill in the Senate for Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities to match what has already been introduced in the House of Representatives. The NRPA team came with us to our visit and it was fascinating to watch them in action. We’ll have to keep watch to see what happens with this!
My third and last meeting for the day was with Congressman Mike McIntyre who was also a strong supporter of parks and recreation. He has been recognized for his efforts by the NRPA and also spoke earlier in the day at the NRPA’s educational briefing on the Hill. The meeting was jovial and his staffer took detailed notes as we spoke.
My meetings were better than I could have hoped. Of course, these meeting are just the beginning; there is follow up to be done to answer staffer questions, thank you notes to send to the staffers and the Representatives that met with us, and seeking them out when they are at home to make sure that they consistently hear from us, not just this one time a year. But what a great start and what a great way to have my first experience.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to have your “first time” yet, I highly recommend putting Legislative Forum 2013 on your to-do list for next year!