LOCAL: Pennsylvania area residents get practical lessons on how to deal with elected officials

From the The Pottstown Mercury, Serving Pottstown, PA

Phoenixville area residents get practical lessons on how to deal with elected officials

A crowd of nearly 100 people from Phoenixville and portions of the surrounding three counties met at Phoenixville Country Club on Friday, July 8, to receive detailed, how-to advice on the best ways to get their concerns across to state and federal legislators. Attendees included the general public as well as members of The Valley Forge Patriots.

Main speaker, Leo Knepper, Pennsylvania state director of Heritage Action for America, explained why personal visits to the offices of elected officials make the strongest impression, followed by phone calls. An email has the least influence, he said, unless it contains many signatures, while form emails “usually end up in the wastebasket.”
Knepper said it‘s important to make an advance appointment before setting out to visit a legislator rather than taking the chance that he or she will be available when you arrive.

“Do your homework, and be prepared to prove whatever point you’re trying to make,” Knepper advised. “Bring something along in writing that proves your point, and always leave something for them to read.”

As for those planning to attend town hall meetings, Knepper said they should always be polite, dress appropriately and bring a video camera to record what’s going on.

“Know what you want to say, and practice in advance.”

He said practicing helps people make their point succinctly.

Knepper advised citizens to write letters to the editor, mainly because legislators have staff members who comb newspapers looking for anything that relates to them or for issues in which their constituents are interested.

He counseled letter-writers to make them personal, include contact information, know the newspaper’s word limit, offer solutions, avoid clichés, double-check all facts, don’t use too many statistics and cite relevant sources.

Knepper’s talk produced a number of audience questions and comments, which included some anecdotes about certain representatives who proved to be quite uninterested in their constituent’s concerns, while others were quite responsive.

This meeting was hosted by The Valley Forge Patriots. Mark Driver of Phoenixville opened the meeting with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, followed by the singing of “Proud to be an American,” by Carol Sexton.

Betty Dunkel-Hernon of Phoenixville made announcements of upcoming events, which was followed by committee members reporting on their visits to legislators and to Phoenixville Area School District meetings. Both Driver and Dunkel-Hernon also serve as precinct committee chairpersons.

Heritage Action is the sister organization of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has 700,000 members. Heritage Action makes sure that Congress hears from people around the country who believe in the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense.

Heritage Action speaks for The Heritage Foundation members and millions of others around the country who hold similar conservative values. The Valley Forge Patriots, based in Phoenixville, is a nonpartisan public affairs group with 523 members from Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties, and with a separate King of Prussia branch that numbers nearly 100. Valley Forge Patriots Phoenixville counts at least eight precinct committee people among its membership.

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