How to engage with local elected officials

March 3, 2015
Tips for building relationships with legislators.

Excerpted from the January/February 2015 edition of AOA Focus.

A new group of legislators took office in January, so now is the time to begin developing relationships with your elected officials. Use these tips from politically savvy doctors of optometyry to address optometry's key issues with your representatives.

  1. Introduce yourself

    "Never be apprehensive about approaching, by phone or in person, one of your elected officials," says Peter Agnone, O.D., who practices in Michigan. "Over the years, I have never met a politician who wasn't always welcoming an opportunity to interact with a potential voter. You will find them all eager to meet you and get to know you. It's a win-win situation for you and them."
  2. Build relationships

    The Arizona Optometric Association (AZOA) started "Operation Introduce Ourselves Before We Introduce Legislation." The campaign identified at least one doctor per district who was willing to meet with their legislators.

    "When a fundraising event came up for a particular district, we contacted those doctors and encouraged them to attend with the legislative chair, who would make the initial introductions," says Annette Hanian, O.D., AZOA legislative chairperson. Maintaining those relationships is crucial, she adds.

  3. Send invites

    "We also invite the legislators to our AZOA social events and make sure to pair them with their Keypersons and other doctors from their district; just socializing without pressure or policy," Dr. Hanian says.

    Similarly, Dr. Agnone often invites local legislators to his office—a great opportunity to explain how doctotrs of optometry are the primary providers of medical eye care. "This is a must for any states considering increases in scope. Make sure your representative has seen firsthand what you can do before you ask for additional scope changes in your state law," he says.
  4. Stand your ground

    "Remember, you don't have to agree with everything your local legislator stands for politically to establish a relationship. Do what's needed to have their ear when necessary," advises Dr. Agnone.
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