From One Townie to Another: Get Political (Part One)

Now, in full disclosure, I pride myself on remaining the consummate apolitical public servant—but that doesn’t mean I sit quietly on the sidelines. As a lifelong resident of Laconia and as the 2017 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, I am morally obligated and uniquely positioned to affect positive change in my community and my state.

Senator Maggie Hassan and I at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC

And here’s the truth: all townies bear similar responsibilities and share similar opportunities to accomplish the same feat.

So, how can we do it? Here are the first two tips on getting political in the Granite State:

Establish Your Platform

Firstly, let’s establish some common vocabulary. The word “politics” assumes several denotations—and many more connotations. For our purposes, the word “politics” boils down to “the power to influence public policy”—and it doesn’t always have to be polarizing. Plenty of volunteer organizations in New Hampshire transcend the political battlefield; yet, their work is highly valued by politicians. And the mutually beneficial relationship between our organizations and our politicians makes it easy to connect with policy makers—at least, easier than you might think.

So, what are your passions? What makes your heart bleed? Which of your professional or personal experiences might lend itself to improving your community? The answers to those questions, when combined with actionable goals, will become your platform.

As the 2017 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, my platform was multifaceted—but unified by a call to cultivate empathy. I adopted two organizations’ causes as my own: when “Got Lunch!” worked to ameliorate hunger, so did I; and when Stand Up Laconia worked to combat substance abuse, so did I. My affiliation with these organizations resulted in conversations with Laconia Mayor Ed Engler and NH Senator Maggie Hassan.

No one on the political left or right can deny the virtue of an organization, which serves the common good.

Network for Net Gain

OK–networking isn’t everyone’s forte. And most of us would like to deny its value. But here are two tips for the unnatural networker to help advance his or her platform:

  • Overcome the Awkwardness

Ever been invited to a “Coffee Shop Social Hour?” How about a “Chamber Breakfast?” Or a “Meet, Greet, and Sip Wine Event?” Regardless of their clever names, networking functions can seem intimidating, conversationally shallow, and downright slimy to a political newbie; however, they present precious opportunities for future collaborative work. Remember: it’s all about having a positive attitude! Shift your expectations, swap business cards and stories, and discover similarities with others in your community.

  • Make Friends Instead of “Contacts”

Everyone attending a networking function hopes to establish meaningful connections with likeminded, ambitious people. But the operative word in that sentence isn’t “likeminded” or “ambitious”—it’s “people.” So, be personable! Friendships made might not directly or immediately benefit your cause, but who knows what future opportunities await?

And that’s just the beginning! But if you can articulate your platform and if you summon the social courage to glad-hand, then you are already on your way to “getting political” in New Hampshire. Stay tuned!

What’s your townie experience? Share it with me—or better yet, send me an invite! And I’ll be sure to celebrate it in an upcoming blog post!

If you or someone you know would like to be profiled, then contact me at townies@stayworkplay.org. Let’s continue to celebrate our living New Hampshire!

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