The Magazine of American Municipal Power, Inc. and its Member Communities

Of Member Concern

The Importance of Advocacy

Marc Gerken, PE

Former President/CEO

The Importance of Advocacy

3 min read



March 2019

Every year, AMP participates in the American Public Power Association’s Annual Legislative Rally in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the rally is to put our public power advocates in the best position possible to speak directly to decision makers about the issues and problems that face our industry. There is not a better advocate or resource than our public power leaders to explain how legislation and regulation impact communities in the real world.

The efforts of AMP members at the annual rally are commendable, but still, we often deal with the same issues, year after year. The question then arises, what do we need to do to solve these issues? The answer is clear: we place an increased emphasis on our advocacy efforts.

We must continue making a concerted effort to present a stronger, more united voice at the state, regional and federal level. When it comes to the major issues affecting our work, such as the sequestration of Build America Bonds or out-of-control transmission prices, amplifying our message is vitally important.

AMP continues our efforts at the federal level and at PJM. However, we need your involvement.

How can you help? The best way is through your employees and customers, but getting them to the point where they will speak out on your behalf will require work. Do your customers truly understand what their utility does for the community? Sure, they likely understand that you deliver their electricity, but are they aware of the many other benefits public power provides? Do they understand how state, regional and federal policies impact their utility service?

Helping your customers and employees to understand how beneficial your service is might lead to some of them becoming advocates on your behalf, and some of the strongest voices can come from the people you least expect.

Prior to joining AMP, I was the city manager in Napoleon. There was a resident in the community who became interested in the state of some older, historical culverts that were falling apart. She came to me more than once to discuss the issue, even bringing along a historian once to explain the importance of her issue.

Unfortunately, the issue was outside of the city’s direct control, and I told her so. It was a state issue and there was nothing I could do.

Then, one evening, I got a call from her asking if I was at home. To my surprise, she mentioned that she had Ohio State Senator Ben Gaeth in her home, and that they wanted to discuss the issue. I invited them over, we collectively discussed the issue and within a month I was informed that the city would have backing and funding from the state on a restoration project if I was with them on the issue. I was.

In the end, her advocacy resulted in a complete restoration of the culverts and major savings for the city. She was neither a public official nor celebrity, but she was a community advocate with a passion for the issue.

I suppose the lesson of that story is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so our mission is to create our own squeaky wheels, otherwise known as advocates, within our public power communities. With the right inspiration, our employees and customers can often become our strongest source of advocacy.

With all that said, I am sure many of you are wondering where you are supposed to find the time or resources to get involved on such a level. That is why I want you to know, AMP is here to help.

I personally consider AMP’s employees to be an extension of our members’ employees.

Over the past year, AMP staff has created communications toolkits for member use. These toolkits are specifically crafted to assist in communicating to your customer-owners about the benefits and value of public power, along with messaging regarding energy efficiency and safety. The toolkits are organized and stored on the Public Power Connections page of the Member Extranet (login required) — where members have access to news release and editorial templates, social media graphics, infographics and more.

I encourage you to look through these resources and use them to engage with your employees, customers, local leaders and local media. Doing so can help to spread the message of public power and build on our advocacy efforts.