The power of the town hall meeting
Mitch Savage of Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver shares his experience in GCSAA’s Grassroots Ambassador program, through which he has cultivated connections with policymakers.
Mitch Savage of Green Valley Ranch GC in Denver is active in GCSAA’s Grassroots Ambassador program, through which he has cultivated connections with policymakers. Photo courtesy of Mitch Savage
I recently had the opportunity to attend my second town hall for U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado’s 1st Congressional District, where Green Valley Ranch Golf Club is located. Since becoming a GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador in 2016, I’ve found that these assemblies, which DeGette tries to hold every three to four months, provide a great way for me to follow and stay in touch with her, as well as with her Denver-area staff members.
Government affairs are an extremely hot topic right now, which was apparent by the stark contrast in turnout between the forum I attended last July and the one this February. There were approximately 100 people at last summer’s gathering, which took place in a middle school auditorium, while the latest meeting, held at a local association’s event center, was a 1,000-person, standing-room-only spectacle.
As a representative of GCSAA, I felt good about a couple of things that came out of the February session. At DeGette’s town halls, the seats contain information/question cards on them for attendees to fill out if they’d like. Most questions put forth at the congresswoman’s meetings are categorized and then addressed with a broad, all-encompassing answer. Only a few submissions are selected to be spoken about in more detail. A question I submitted regarding H-2B reform and immigration was read verbatim, and DeGette discussed it before the crowd. I was happy to hear that she recognizes the importance and is a supporter of the program, which is vital to the success and sustainability of many of our golf facilities. She encouraged everyone present to continue their support of the program to ensure we can get the number of employees we need at the times we need them most, and said she will also fight to achieve that goal.
Another aspect of the meeting that left me with a positive impression was that Tom Kelly, district director for Rep. DeGette, recognized me from the forum I’d attended last year. I approached him to thank him for singling out my H-2B question, and he remembered me immediately, which cemented for me that the work I’m doing on behalf of the association is making a difference. I took this opportunity to reiterate to Kelly that anyone from DeGette’s office who would like to visit Green Valley Ranch to see for themselves the many incredible aspects of our profession is welcome to do so anytime.
I left the town hall feeling energized and pleased about the support we’re getting from DeGette’s staff. As a Grassroots Ambassador, I’m learning that advocacy efforts take time, but that even the smallest wins and strides in the right direction can have an impact. I look forward to future events that will offer similar opportunities to connect, and getting DeGette’s staff out for a site visit soon is a high priority for me.
Many golf course superintendents and other turf professionals are realizing the importance of advocacy, and the encouraging and exciting part is how many are stepping up and answering the call to give our industry the voice it so desperately needs. I began my Grassroots Ambassador journey because I had an interest in political affairs and wanted to learn how to properly educate others on issues that affect the superintendent profession and, in turn, our livelihoods. Much of the public, including legislators and their staff members, isn’t informed of and thus doesn’t always comprehend how certain legislative issues impact the golf and turf industries. Quite often, too, they simply aren’t aware of the effort we invest in doing things diligently and responsibly — a fact that makes our advocacy work all the more necessary.
Superintendents don’t need to be legislative experts to be successful advocates. We just need to be willing to share our stories of stewardship and the conscientiousness we employ every day at our facilities. That alone is strong and effective advocacy. It’s all about getting noticed and having a voice. If we don’t stand up and represent ourselves, who will?
Editor’s note: You can learn more about GCSAA’s Grassroots Ambassador program and get involved at www.gcsaa.org/advocacy.
Mitch Savage is the assistant superintendent at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver. A 14-year member of GCSAA, Mitch earned a degree in environmental horticulture/turfgrass management from the University of Minnesota. He was recently named the GCSAA Class C Representative on the Rocky Mountain GCSA board of directors. He and his wife, Missy, and their 4-year-old son, Max, live in the Mile High City and love everything Colorado.