Preservation Lobby Day comes full circle when you share your experiences and enthusiasm with your friends and neighbors back home, which is why I always prepare a long and short version of my tips, take-aways and observations. In the interest of time (I know you have other blogs to read this morning), I’ll share the latter.
First of all, everything you’ve heard on this blog and elsewhere about needing to have a canned elevator speech that you can rattle off at the drop of a hat is 100% true. Whether you’re on the Hill or in your mayor’s office, that quick, no-holds-barred appeal is one of the most important tools you can have in your back pocket. For instance, between our Hill visits this year, I happened to spy Congressman Dave Reichert (former King County sheriff and a lieutenant at the North Bend police precinct while I served as mayor) as he scurried across the walkway between the Capitol and the House office buildings. We had a great, spur-of-the-moment conversation about home and how historic preservation makes a real difference to the economy in his district. He pledged his support and said he would review our requests – all in about three minutes as other hurried staffers and lobbyists dodged us on the sidewalk!
Also, always anticipate setbacks and curveballs. One year, Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn was late for her appointment with our group, but she called requesting that we hang around for a while. Turns out, she had been unexpectedly called to the White House to meet with the president! She only kept us waiting for about half an hour, and we had a productive and enlightening conversation upon her return.
Most importantly, don’t leave a meeting without looking your elected officials (or their staffers) straight in the eye and telling them what you believe. Grab every opportunity you get, but don’t waste their time. As a former mayor, I can’t begin to tell you how effective this simple strategy can be.
And of course, be prepared for anything (and everything). After all, lobbying is like a box of chocolates…
- Joan Murray Simpson
Way Outside the Beltwayer Joan Murray Simpson is a preservation enthusiast and the former mayor of North Bend, Washington. Visit our Lobby Day 2009 website on PreservationNation.org to learn more about her recent trip to Capitol Hill.