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Anyone who thinks only “seasoned veterans” of the political world are making a difference at the state and federal level must not have attended The Network for Young Professionals’ Access to the Issues event on July 17.
Those who were there got a first-hand look at the progress made in the 2019 state legislative session on education and workforce issues, as well as how YPs are making their presence felt in both Jefferson City and the nation’s capital.
Attendees first heard a recap of the 2019 state legislative session from Chamber Public Affairs Coordinator Lauren Mustoe, who highlighted major successes in workforce development, transportation funding and education.
She was followed by Ryan Sivill – chair-elect of The Network’s Leadership Council – and Kristin Carter, who served as chair in 2018. Both traveled to Jefferson City in the spring for the group’s Day at the Capitol, and they talked about how the event both made an impact on them and on the legislators with whom they met.
“It didn’t matter what legislator’s office we were standing in; there was always someone who had something to contribute,” Sivill said of the group of 15 that made the trip. “With the diversity of experience that we brought, to talk about how the issues impact our lives was really powerful.”
They also noted how having the support and influence of the Chamber behind them helped them make a difference. “Plus,” Carter added, “we’re the only YP group in Missouri taking a group to the Capitol. So it really makes an impact.”
The event concluded with a panel of YPs who work for federal elected officials – Clayton Campbell, from U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley’s office, Joelle Cannon from the office of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, and Tyler Hobbs from Congressman Billy Long’s office. After discussing their individual backgrounds and what their daily job entails, they offered some lessons they’ve learned in their work.
One of the biggest lessons is that legislators are usually not that different from each other, regardless of where they reside on the political spectrum.
“I’ve learned that there’s not a big difference between the parties – most people are there for the right reason and want to get things done,” Cannon said. “The messaging may be different and the tactics may be different, but the policy and the ideas are not that far apart. Sen. Blunt likes to say, ‘Things in Washington are not as bad as they’re portrayed, but they’re not as good as they should be.’”
That’s why, as Hobbs pointed out, it’s important to know how individuals view every issue through the lens of their own experience – and not to underestimate the power of that viewpoint.
“Knowing how people talk about their business really goes far in helping to build relationships, and building relationships is key – it’s a game of who you know, not what you know,” he said. “Never burn a bridge. I’ve crossed paths with many people I knew from the past, and those experiences have always been positive.”
The three noted that it’s important for YPs to build relationships with their legislators as well, to make sure they’re aware of the issues that are most important to you. And one of the best ways is to make friends with their staff and have a conversation with them.
“See yourself as an educator,” Campbell said. “We have a ton of information coming at us, so the more well-prepared you can be for that conversation the better. Help us have an accurate understanding of what you want our reps to know.”