Lessons Learned After Chairing Lobbyists Association

By Amy Heaslet, Executive Vice President/General Counsel, Tennessee Bankers Association

Since last January, I’ve had the honor of serving as chairman of the Tennessee Lobbyists Association. Leading an association of my peer lobbyists whom I respect tremendously has taught me some valuable lessons and allowed me the opportunity to share with others the strengths of TBA.

The TLA is much like TBA in that it is a member-driven organization whose success is determined by the engagement of its members. Having strong engagement by TLA members was one of my top priorities while serving as chair, because I have seen first-hand the benefits it creates for TBA. I knew that TBA was fortunate to have such an engaged membership, and getting to work with other industry lobbyists helped me further appreciate the role bankers play not only in our association but also in your communities. Your influence carries a political weight that is one of the strongest in the state and is respected by many.

Serving the TLA as chair also gave me the opportunity to discuss with other lobbyists best practices for member engagement in government relations. It was widely known among lobbyists and legislators that TBA’s successful legislative record is due in large part to the advocacy by our members and their relationships with legislators. TBA’s government relations team prides itself on having a reputation of having a strong knowledge of banking issues and representing a united front on those issues. When controversial issues come up, we are successful because our bankers are known, trusted, and willing to make phone calls to legislators.

One of the best ways we help cultivate relationships with bankers and new legislators is visiting with them together in-person in their district when the legislature is not in session. We’ve spent a large part of our “off session” time the past few months traveling the state and doing those visits. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job. Not only do we experience firsthand the beginning of new relationships, and the strengthening of existing ones, it’s a great opportunity for us to get to know both bankers and legislators on a personal level. And then, when the time comes during session to ask a legislator to take a certain position on legislation, the conversation is much easier.

Making the time to do these in-person visits was one of the things I shared with other TLA member lobbyists when the topic came up of how to make the biggest impact with both PAC efforts and member engagement. Surprisingly, some associations’ staff can’t—or don’t—make the time to visit with their members and legislators in their districts, but after learning about our successes, several made these visits a priority as well.

As I mentioned, it has been a privilege to serve as chair of TLA, but it’s an even bigger privilege and honor to represent TBA—an association whose government relations strength is the envy of many. It’s no secret why—our bankers are the difference.

As we call on you to engage on certain issues this upcoming legislative session or throughout the year, I hope that you will take us up on that opportunity.

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