WSU is advancing Washington industries …
WSU teams with aviation to develop sustainable aviation biofuels …
WSU partners to develop bioproducts that reduce dependence on petroleum imports …
WSU works with state commodity commissions to conduct needed agricultural research …
WSU developed the technology used for wood-plastic composites used for buildings …
WSU researchers work to improve dairy productivity and reduce disease …
WSU research has made Washington one of the world’s most productive wheat-growing regions …

"Take Five" for WSU and higher education, Cougar Chat, In the News

“Take Five” for WSU and higher education: a legislator shares her views about your advocacy

butch holding coug

Welcome to the fifth entry in our “Take Five” Initiative, which provides weekly tips, suggestions, examples, and the tools so you can take five minutes and be an advocate for higher education and WSU. This week we feature Representative Gael Tarleton (36-D) and her views on citizen advocacy. WSU Impact called Rep. Tarleton’s office and asked to have coffee  so we could personally thank her for supporting WSU and higher education and for her responsiveness to our emails. We also sought her insights on how advocates can be effective in communicating with legislators. We suggest many of our advocates will find her responses refreshing and inspiring.

Other posts in the series:
– “Take Five” for WSU: let’s get started and sample letter for your review
Your Voice Makes a Difference: “take five” for WSU
– “Take Five” for WSU: six reasons to join the take five initiative
“Take Five” for WSU: step-by-step pictorial guide on how to access your WSU Impact advocacy tools

Fitness. Many of us are engaged in physical fitness activities or thinking of starting a fitness plan – we understand that physical activity is a key to human health. You know the drill. To gain a higher level of fitness, you start out slow – building stamina, muscle, and skill. Over time, you find you can climb more stairs, walk at a brisker pace, and steadily feel stronger.

Becoming politically fit follows the same principles. Just as your flesh-and-blood muscles need regular use, and increased activity over time, so do your political muscles. Stop using them altogether and you will become politically flabby, use them regularly and your level of advocacy fitness will soar.

It was in this spirit that WSU Impact called one of our three legislators in the 36th Legislative District. WSU Impact had contacted Representative Gael Tarleton many times by email over the last legislative session. Every time WSU Impact sent registered members a call to action, we contacted our legislators using the tools found on the personal WSU Impact webpage.  Representative Tarleton in turn, answered our emails on almost every occasion.

Representative Gael Tarleton is a first-time lawmaker representing the 36th Legislative District, that covers north Seattle including the Belltown, Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Ballard neighborhoods. She is a smart, passionate legislator who has worked for public higher education. Her message to WSU Impact members: keep those emails coming into legislators and share your personal stories about what you value about WSU and higher ed.

We felt ready to take the next step and sit down with Representative Tarleton. We knew she supported higher education, we had established a cordial, constructive email relationship, and wanted to thank her for her responsiveness. We called her district office located in lower Queen Anne. We chatted amicably with her legislative assistant and explained we wanted to have coffee and thank Representative Tarleton for her public service and support of higher education. We explained that we were not going to ask for anything or had any facts or figures to share, rather, we simply wanted to meet and talk about citizen advocacy. And, just like that – we had a meeting set up in a local coffee shop in our Magnolia neighborhood.

The first thing we noticed about Representative Tarleton is her enthusiasm for her job. Intelligent, informed, friendly, and conversational, we learned a lot about her upbringing, career, and what led her to be a legislator. We immediately found we shared the same passion for gardening, advocacy, education, family, home, and building community. We also asked how she views constituents contacting her and how important it is for her to hear from folks in her legislative district:

WSU Impact: WSU Impact is a resource that allows our members to easily contact their legislators. What are your thoughts about these kind of advocacy resources?

Rep. Tarleton: I depend on these messages. It is only through communication that I feel the pulse of my constituents and understand what they are thinking about related to the issues we are working on in Olympia. If I receive 300 or more emails or letters on a topic, I know that this is an issue people care about.

WSU Impact: We have been encouraging WSU alumni and friends to share personal stories about what their education has meant to them personally. Is this a good idea?

Rep. Tarleton: Yes – very. I need constituents to share stories; it is the personal stories that stand out and inform me to take action on an issue. We need to hear from the heart, how cuts in funding to WSU have impacted students and families. Bottom-line, citizen advocacy is critical in government work. Educating elected officials is one of the most important things you can do. As my constituent, it is your stories about how higher education has changed your life and why you care about WSU that will resonate the most. It is our job to deal with the details of the budget or legislative process, it is your job to tell us what you care about.

WSU Impact: Everyone is so busy or reluctant to contact legislators. What would you say to those who are intimidated to engage with legislators.

Rep. Tarleton: Well, first I would share what my mother said to me: “you do what you can, where you live, everyday.” I understand that not all people will have the time or energy to participate in the legislative process. But for those who can, communicate and communicate often. I can never receive enough emails about higher education. Keeping the pressure on legislators is good. I like a “surround sound” approach – I want to hear from lots of people and be surrounded by what they care about. No one should ever feel powerless to make a difference – it doesn’t take much by one person. But, all the better if you are working together with others. Then you have a powerful team of voices that will be heard.

Magnolia is a neighborhood in the 36th Legislative District. Representative Gael Tarleton and WSU Impact met over tea and coffee in the Magnolia Village to chat about advocacy and the importance of constituents sharing their views with legislators.

WSU Impact ended the meeting with Representative Tarleton with a hug and shared appreciation for an hour well spent. We strongly suggest that advocates think about flexing your political muscles and sit down for coffee or tea with a legislator(s) you are getting to know through sending emails. Meeting in person with your elected officials is the single most powerful grassroots action you can take to support WSU and higher education. Establishing a personal relationship with the people who represent you can serve as the foundation for future communication and moves you into the next politically-fit realm of truly effective advocacy.

Go Cougs!

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