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Got customers? You can lobby, too!

February 18, 2022 -  By
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Bob Mann makes it a point to be a known constituent to his Massachusetts representative, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (Photo courtesy of Bob Mann)

Here’s a funny story, at least I think it’s a funny story; your mileage may vary. Back when I owned my lawn care company, I had a friend who owned a nursery and landscape
service in Cambridge, Mass. He didn’t enjoy doing the fertilization part of the business, so he was eager to refer customers to me. One such customer was a guy named Bruce Mann, no relation to me.

Bruce lived in a beautiful three-story brownstone home just steps from Harvard Square. His lawn was perhaps 500 square feet, but it would take me half an hour or more to complete it because Bruce and I would start talking. He was a professor and told me he spent most of his time in the “Middle Ages,” and we would talk about anything and everything. I suppose we all have customers like this, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visits with Bruce.

During the 2012 Senate campaign in Massachusetts, excitement swirled around a professor at the Harvard Law School who had been instrumental in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a priority of President Obama. Elizabeth Warren won the nomination of the Democratic party and eventually the general election. Something seemed awfully familiar about Ms. Warren as if I had met her before. After a little digging around on the internet, I found that she lived on Linnaean Street in Cambridge. “You don’t suppose…” I said to myself, and with a little more digging, I discovered that the woman I knew as Mrs. Mann was going to be the next senator from Massachusetts.

On the Hill

Fast forward to NALP’s 2016 Legislative Day on the Hill event in Washington. I reached out to all the Massachusetts senators and representatives to request a meeting. Most ignored my request, sadly, but in my note to Sen. Warren’s office, I made mention of being her lawn care guy and my friendship with Bruce. Surprisingly, I got an immediate reply with an offer not only to meet with the staffer that handles environmental issues but an invitation to attend a meet-and-greet event with Sen. Warren. The meeting with the staffer went very well. Although she had a doctorate in some aspect of environmental science, she knew little about the lawn care and landscape industry, so it was fun to share my issues with her. The meet and greet was a blast, as well. Sen. Warren remembered me, and we had a nice five-minute chat.

The lesson here is it’s not difficult for those of us in the lawn care and landscape business to take a step into the world of politics. If you can handle service calls from Mr. or Mrs. Jones about that one dandelion way out in the back lawn (you know who I mean, don’t you?), then you can be a successful advocate for the industry.

Trust me when I say that politically speaking, the only thing I’d agree with Sen. Warren on is the color of the sky (maybe), but that’s not a barrier to being a known constituent. I’ve found that the public persona of politicians in the media is often at odds with what they’re like in person.

Share your story

Activists on the other side of our issues interact with politicians daily and are not saying kind things about our industry. It’s up to us to share our stories. Make it a priority to take that first step and schedule a meeting with your elected officials in their district offices.

This month, NALP is launching a new platform to better represent and advocate for the landscape and lawn care industry. Voices for Healthy Green Spaces is a community of supporters dedicated to highlighting the benefits of managed landscapes. Landscape and lawn care professionals contribute to sustainable environments, generate positive economic activity, protect the health and safety of our communities and make nature accessible to everyone.

We’re excited about this new venture and encourage you to visit GreenSpaceVoices.org and join.

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