Looking Ahead: Building a Relationship with Your Elected Officials

Rudy Dory, president of Newport Avenue Market, speaks with his representative, Greg Walden (R-Ore.), at the FMI's annual Day in Washington on Capitol Hill.

With the 2016 election results and commercials now (mostly) behind us, it is the perfect time to develop and build relationships with the winners of this election in order to get them to understand your perspective on votes they will take in the city council, county commission, state legislature or Congress. Many newly elected or reelected officials will begin putting together offices and priorities and learning which committees and caucuses they will join. A little outreach now can have a big impact.

Here are some tips to developing a strong relationship with your elected official:

1. Send a note after the election congratulating the official on their election or re-election with a brief paragraph about your business and inviting the official to visit and meet associates.

2. Schedule an introductory meeting with the elected official in your store or distribution center. Show them something new—a new department, product, section or technology. Talk with them about issues they might have the opportunity to vote on or influence with their position (if you need any ideas, we are happy to provide them). Introduce them to associates—especially the store manager. Take photos!

Art Potash, CEO of Potash Markets, explains policy issues impacting his business to Sen. Dick Durbin (R-Ill.).

3. Send the elected official and the staff member who accompanies them a follow-up note, thanking them for the visit and reiterating those items you showed them at the store.

4. Communicate with the official and the staffer every quarter. Let them know about a new department, remodel, new jobs you have created or a new product or a policy issue. Also, ask them what issues they are most interested in.

5. Send the elected official materials created by your state or national association. This demonstrates the direct link between your business and your state or national association. Then when FMI lobbyists reach out to the officials in Washington, it allows us to expand your reach on an ongoing basis.

6. When you have an "ask," make sure it is clear. If you would like them to co-sponsor legislation, sign a letter or vote in favor or against something, make sure it is clear and has been communicated to them and their office both in writing and verbally. If you are sending a letter or e-mail, make sure the "ask" or request is in the first sentence.

7. After there is a vote or hearing on an issue that impacts your business or your store, reach back out to the elected official to let them know how much you appreciate their understanding of your business. If they did not vote in your favor, reach out to let them know that you would like to discuss why you, your associates and your customers are on the other side of the issue. Maybe you can get them next time!

8. Always stay positive, even if the vote did not go your way.

Building relationships is a key to success, especially when you are striving for change in your community. Find state-specific resources on the state affairs section of