“Advocacy starts locally,” said Jeff Branch, Senior Legislative Advocate for the League. “You are your city’s first advocates. When you share your feedback from meeting with your legislators to us on the lobbying team, it further tells your local story.” FLC Chief of Legislative Affairs Casey Cook added that the more information and stories the League’s Legislative Team hears from members, the better they can communicate those impacts to legislators during their lobbying efforts so that legislators see the whole picture.
These lobbying efforts boil down to building rapport, said Lois Paritsky, Mayor of the Town of Ponce Inlet and FLC Advocacy Committee Chair. “This event is very significant because it is an opportunity for us to do the relationship-building that is talked about,” Paritsky said, “because once you have a relationship with someone, you’re then in a position to effectively advocate.”
Following the briefing, members headed to the Capitol to meet with legislators and discuss priority issues. Arcadia City Administrator Terry Stewart, who has worked in local government for almost 54 years, said, “One of the things that I’ve known over the years is that in order for your voice to be heard, you’ve got to express it.” Let people know your concerns, needs, desires and hopes, said Stewart. “One of the ways in which we do that is to come to Tallahassee to address those issues that are important to local communities.”
For Ella Gilbert, Senior Deputy City Attorney with the City of Port St. Lucie, Legislative Action Days helps foster existing relationships. Before making a request to a legislator, you need to get to know the member on a personal level, she said. “Legislative Action Days helps us as we build on our relationships with members of our legislative delegation, and it’s important to carry the message of Home Rule and local government control here in the state capital.”
By finding common ground and building relationships with legislators, the League’s members and legislative team were able to make an impact during this legislative session. (See p. 34 for more about the 2023 Legislative Session.)
Caraballo said, “You are so important in being a bridge for what League staff is doing in Tallahassee. With your help, we’re achieving even greater success. We’re advocating for and protecting our cities.”
By Kelli Gemmer
Kelli Gemmer is the Communications Director for the Florida League of Cities.