Elected officials have an enormous breadth of
responsibility for things ranging from solid waste disposal to allocating
scarce resources to assuring the health, safety, and welfare of their
constituents. Most elected officials are experts in a few policy areas but
cannot be experts in all areas of responsibility. They rely on people they
trust to provide information in areas where they lack expertise.
Elected officials, of course, rely on their
immediate staff and on state and federal administrators. While these
individuals certainly know a great deal, their responsibilities do not include
the direct delivery and supervision of services. As an expert on the direct
delivery and supervision of services, your leadership objective is to be a
reliable and trustworthy information resource in relation to child protection
The following activities will serve to
solidify your relationships with elected officials and to assure the “trusting”
relationships necessary for your mutual success.
1. Understand the responsibilities of the
elected and administrative stakeholders on your map. Your task is to get them
to rely on you and the agency for accurate, timely, and helpful information in
your area of expertise. You can only serve in this role if you understand what
they do, what information they need, and if you have developed relationships
that reliably serve their interests.
2. Understand the legislative process: how bills become law and the
budget process used to allocate the scarce resources of government.
3. Understand the administrative rule-making
process and at what stages that process can be influenced.
4. Understand that all resources allocated to
the public sector come from the political process. There is no other way.
5. Understand the expectations placed on each
elected official on your map by his caucus, his constituency, and his personal
6. Establish ongoing, personal contact with elected and
administrative officials at all levels of government. Along with regular
contact, for example, consider inviting individual elected officials to spend a
day with an agency social worker. This is a potentially powerful way to
familiarize the elected official with what the agency does and how complex the
work of child protection truly is.
7. Develop a process to ensure that when an
official requests information, the right information gets to the right person
at the right time. If you cannot be relied upon to respond in a timely manner,
you will not be asked the next time. The policy development process can move,
stop, and restart quickly. When information is needed, it is needed now.
8. When agency successes are celebrated, always
include the appropriate officials. Invite the media to cover the event. Not
only does this educate the elected official (and the media) about agency
successes, it also gives your valued political stakeholder deserved credit.
9. Always advise the appropriate officials of
actual or potential crises. Brief them on the matter so that they can
accurately respond to the media. No one likes to be caught by surprise,
especially elected officials. The official will likely be asked to respond to
the media and must have the correct information to respond accurately.
considerate of the official’s time. If you cannot convey your information in
five to ten minutes or in one to two pages, then rework your presentation until
you can. Your presentation should never take more than ten minutes. If the
official has questions beyond that, then he is on his time.
your accountability by regularly providing unsolicited, one to two page
informative reports. Use graphs to convey your message instead of dry
statistics. Include data concerning the characteristics of the children
and families of your community as well as what needs the agency and
Children’s Safety Net are successfully meeting and what needs are not