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League Lobby Days Help Build Momentum 

By Scott Mooneyham, NCLM Director of Public Affairs

Pikeville Town Administrator Michael Hunt has more than a little experience with local government and grassroots advocacy. Having been a former assistant city attorney in Jacksonville, Fla., and working on the legal side for various counties in Florida, Hunt had been active with local government advocacy groups in that state for several years.

Coming to North Carolina in 2013 to help tend to his ailing father (who has since passed away), Hunt assumed his current position in 2014. It didn’t take long before he looked for that same opportunity to become involved, joining the League’s General Government Legislative Action Committee.

After immersing himself in the League’s policy-setting process, he jumped at a chance to attend a League Lobby Day back on May 11. "I’m 68. This is my last post, so hopefully I bring some value in being involved in these kinds of efforts," Hunt said.

Each year, Town Hall Day serves as League members’ opportunity to show up in force at the Legislative Building and present a show of unity and strength in helping to draw attention to policy issues of importance to municipalities. League Lobby Days offer a different type of opportunity, one where smaller numbers of representatives of League member towns and cities can meet with legislators and – depending on legislative happenings that day – engage in some grassroots lobbying and focused local discussions.

While the Lobby Days efforts have varied at times in their approach, the League’s grassroots specialists have been leading the recent efforts. Grassroots Coordinator Vickie Miller says the days offer a chance to help build a case for policy positions over the course of a legislative session.

"In May and early June, it was an opportunity to build some momentum toward Town Hall Day," added Will Brooks, the League’s new Grassroots Initiative and Civic Engagement Associate. "It helps create a presence throughout the session."

Miller and Brooks help to coordinate the visits between League members and legislators, as well as work with the other members of the League’s Public and Government Affairs staff to help prep members on the best approaches to the various policy issues that they wish to pursue.

For Hunt, the day included meetings with members of his local delegation – Reps. John Bell of Goldsboro and Sen. Louis Pate of Mount Olive – to discuss, among other things, the potential for innovative, additional revenue sources for municipalities. "I wanted to talk about ways to work cooperatively with the state, to look at some outside-the-box ideas," he said.

Other Lobby Days included Town of Cary officials on May 25 meeting with Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary and Rep. Robert Reives of Sanford, where they discussed municipal authority and flexible local control, local revenue sources, and high-quality regional transportation infrastructure; City of Shelby officials meeting with House Speaker Tim Moore on June 1; and Town of Morrisville officials meeting with Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh on June 2.

Hunt, during his visit, noted that the League staff members with whom he worked, Miller and Brooks, did something that he didn’t always see from similar counterparts in Florida: They listened. That listening, he said, was important to ensuring that his time at the Legislative Building was productive. "That is a get-up and go group," he said.

He didn’t let that visit keep him from also joining in on Town Hall Day. "My presence, as a member of a Legislative Action Committee, I just felt it could be important."

The legislative session may be over now, but the League’s Vickie Miller and Will Brooks are more than happy to help other League members participate in a League Lobby Day in 2017. Feel free to contact them for information on how to get involved.