Pest management professionals (PMPs) can take action to help ensure legislators in their states enact laws that will be beneficial to them and the pest management industry. It’s as simple as setting up a meeting.
Legislators welcome the opportunity to meet with their constituents, the people whom they represent and have the power to keep them in office.
For example, Cincinnati, Ohio-based Scherzinger Termite & Pest Control has invited to its office congressional representatives and senators, as well as local, state, county and city representatives, says VP of Procurement & Marketing Eric Scherzinger.
“We talk about the importance of small business, as well as being a resource to them when something that could affect us comes up,” says Scherzinger, who is also a Pest Management Professional Editorial Advisory Board (PMP EAB) member. “Having that relationship with legislators is priceless when you need to meet with them on something that is important to our industry.”
He encourages PMPs to meet with their representatives at every level. “One day, they could be voting on a nationwide bill that affects your business, like pesticide preemption,” he adds.
SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Legislators and their staffs may be unfamiliar with the harm pests cause, or the safety protocols PMPs must follow when using pesticides. Meet with them to give them the information they need to make informed decisions when they are writing pest control related bills or voting on them. But it works both ways.
“Reaching out to your elected officials is critically important to develop the relationships before you need to ask to help with something,” says Kurt Scherzinger, ACE, president of Scherzinger Termite & Pest Control and also a PMP EAB member. “That way, when you do need their help, they are more willing to take the time to listen as you have become a trusted resource.”
Developing one-on-one relationships have a positive impact. “We want our government decision makers to trust us, and therefore seek us out when issues arise that relate to our industry and we can provide wise thoughts and direction during the development stages of law creation,” says Scott Steckel, strategic development officer, Plunkett’s Pest Control, Columbus, Ohio, and immediate past president of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).
FIND YOUR COMFORT LEVEL
The NPMA holds its Legislative Day event in Washington, D.C., each year to give PMPs an opportunity to meet legislators and their staffs in their offices on Capitol Hill — although building closures due to COVID-19 moved these meetings online. The NPMA also recently called on its members to meet with legislators who are on summer break and back in their districts, to discuss pesticide preemption and gain support for a nationwide bill. Many state and local pest management associations also facilitate meetings with representatives, which may help PMPs feel at ease.
“The Ohio Pest Management Association often hosts dinners with five or six PMPs and five or six legislators to create a more relaxed environment to get to know the legislators as ‘regular people’ and build relationships with them,” says Brian Alonso, service manager, Columbus Pest Control, Columbus, Ohio. “Building those relationships not only helps provide an expert to reach out to prior to a vote specifically about pest control issues, but we’ve had legislators reach out to us about small business issues.”
Bill Welsh, ACE, VP of Operations, Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich., has been meeting with legislators for about nine years, and is a valued member of the NPMA’s State Policy Affairs Representatives (SPARs) program. His tips for PMPs meeting with legislators for the first time include:
- Don’t overthink it. Call up and say, ‘I’d like to make an appointment, come in and introduce myself, and work with you.’ It’s just that simple.
- Don’t be nervous. The first time you meet, you’re nervous. But you’ll find that after you’ve done it once or twice, it’s no big deal because 99 percent of the people you talk to are super nice.
- Don’t use industry jargon. They won’t know what it means. Talk to them about how the pest control industry works. It’s no different than how you explain pest control to a customer.
- Make yourself available. Give them your business card and let them know that if they need more information, they can call you.
- Aim to work together. Make your views known, but don’t be hostile. Build a relationship where you are on common ground and working together.
“If we can get more people proactive in doing that within each state legislature, we would be so far ahead, both on the federal side and the state side,” Welsh adds. “When they’ve got a constituent sitting in front of them, they will pay attention.”
How to contact your representatives
If you do not know who represents your district on the state and federal levels, a quick online search will provide the names, office addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.