NRPA’S Online Community Forums Address Relations with City Hall

October 1, 2012, Department, by National Recreation and Park Association

What is your #1 tip for improving communication between your agency and your local elected government? Whether it is the mayor, city council, county executive, county council, or governor’s office, what is the most effective method you’ve learned to keep your elected officials informed and onboard? 

Good question. In the past I have spent time, long before budgets are due or being prepared, with elected officials to “educate” them on the importance of the parks, trails, and greenways that we have and how important they are to the community. I’ve spent time “creating” photo-op opportunities for them to get their “face” in the public. They’ve enjoyed the PR, and come election time, they’ll remember who helped them. If you ignore them or don’t spend quality time with them, be prepared for cuts to your budget. Take that first step and improve the relationship with the government, elected officials, and the community. —Jeffrey A. Larsen

Invite them to your events—as a participant, not just a speaker—and get them involved. Include them on your eblast list, sharing announcements about programs and activities. Share positive comments and reactions from participants showing that you have the support of the community. Attend their meetings and work sessions, periodically announcing a special recognition, supporter, or project. Good luck! —Denise Lanza

As already stated, we are in the best position to get the elected officials valuable and positive “face” time with the public and local media. In addition to great comments and suggestions already provided, I found that having parks and facilities that the community supports and is proud of provides the best way to get the support of elected officials. Great parks result in great praise; anything that gives your community bragging rights over others is music to mayors everywhere. —Dianne L. Hoover

There is nothing like a surprise or providing insufficient information. Within a strong mayor form of government, make sure to fully inform/discuss major policy/political issues before you begin work on them. Periodic milestone updates are a necessity. For board/city council-requested action, make sure that if items have not been fully briefed prior to an action, be comprehensive in providing overviews. Typically, keep in mind the “who, what, where, why, and how” questions in providing summaries. And it is always beneficial to place oneself in an elected official’s shoes and ask questions about issues that one would want to know about. Make sure they are researched so that one is in a position of preparedness if questions are asked.” —Paul Kaftanski

We have to engage them directly, so they have first-hand knowledge that we are taking steps to reach our goals and objectives, which should be aligned with the vision of the elected body. Throughout this, they have to believe that we are being efficient and effective with our resources. —Bradley B. Barnes

Network Buzz appears monthly in Parks & Recreation. Questions are posed to members of NRPA Connect, the interactive, social media section of the association’s website. It’s a convenient and effective way for NRPA members to connect, collaborate, and communicate.