Build relationships with state lawmakers before you need them

With what could be another challenging Texas legislative session on the horizon, now is the time to be building and cultivating relationships with lawmakers.

Guest opinion by Leonard Woolsey

If 2018’s battle against proposed newsprint tariffs taught us anything, it’s how critical it is to have relationships in place with your elected officials. In the end, those very relationships helped turn the momentum away from the potentially catastrophic tariffs on newspapers. 
As a leader of your newspaper, you have a responsibility to develop and maintain a working relationship with your local officials. Not that you must be best friends, but at least get to know each other and occasionally exchange communications. Get to know their key staff members, too.
Doing this builds a two-way thoroughfare for conversation, assistance and helping your community. Too often newspaper executives consider this a distasteful aspect of community leadership, but it is not. Having a reasonable and constructive relationship with officials is key to getting the public’s work accomplished. A mutually respectful relationship helps both sides perform better work for their communities. 
During the 2018 newsprint tariff challenge we learned to our dismay that many Texas newspaper leaders had little or no existing relationships with their elected representatives on either the state or national stage. Too often the calls being made to members of the Texas delegation were both introductory calls and pleas for help. As a rule, that is not a good way to persuade an elected official to help you. We were extremely fortunate to have the outcome we did. 
The coming legislative session will again feature challenges to public notices, transparency and other issues newspapers hold dear. Every day is the right day to build a relationship, and your relationships with our legislators can mean the difference between success and failure. Don’t wait until your back is against the wall to develop those relationships. 

Leonard Woolsey is publisher of The Galveston County Daily News and a member of TPA’s Legislative Advisory Committee. He may be reached at leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com.