Working with Local Officials: A Guide
Here's an example of a local official: Ab Jenkins was both a record holder for land speed (he drove the Mormon Meteor) and the mayor of Salt Lake City (1940-1943).
How do you dialogue with, lobby, or educate the city council or county commission?
Here are some ideas—not to use all at once, but to use as seems appropriate:
- Call the city or county offices or check the website to find out how to contact public officials.
- Get involved with the city or county on several fronts. Be visible as someone who cares deeply about the community and who serves it well.
- Enlist the help and support of people who can connect you to the council members or commissioners.
- Get to know the council or commission members on an informal basis.
- Meet with them one-on-one before a city meeting when an issue will be discussed. Be prepared with a clear, succinct explanation of your position, with supporting visuals, if possible. Ask for their input.
- If an official is clearly opposed to your point of view, try to talk about the assumptions and goals underlying his or her point of view. Seek to explore a “third way”—a solution that addresses these assumptions and goals while still honoring and preserving historic assets.
- Show, don’t tell, by taking them on a tour or presenting an excellent presentation using slides of historic homes and neighborhoods.
- Make an economic case—be well-versed in facts and figures to back you up. An excellent resource is Donald Rypkema, The Economics of Historic Preservation. This book tells you what facts are most effective in what situations.
- For public meetings, learn how the council or commission takes public comment. Ask to be on the agenda. Bring many supporters with you.
- Recognize that often people who may have a lot to gain financially will invest a lot of money and time in lobbying the government. However, the most effective influence is often a large number of committed, vocal, and articulate citizens.
- Be willing to volunteer, serve on a committee, or research in response to the city’s or council’s questions or needs.
- Bring in experts if you need to establish credibility.
- Keep the discourse civil! You may lose a battle or two, but civil, respectful engagement may win the peace.
See more excellent suggestions on how to work with a city council on preservation issues.