Florida Chapter Builds Relationships
Politics is not something one can dip their toe in. You’re either in it or you’re not. The Florida Chapter of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) had a few toes in the political pool for years. Things changed in 2020 when we partnered with RSA Consulting Group. I’m not sure if we all held hands and jumped in the pool together or if we were pushed; all I know is we were suddenly submerged in the pool of the legislative processes.
Build relationships with candidates before they are elected to office. In June and July, Florida members meet throughout the state, spending the day interviewing candidates running for legislative office. The goal of these interviews is to build relationships, understand each other’s priorities, and introduce AFSA and the fire sprinkler industry. By the end of the interview, we part ways, having had a few laughs, respect for each other’s passions, and the beginning of a friendship. There is always the occasional eyebrow raise and thankfulness we interviewed the person and know not to give the endorsement. It’s important to get to know the people who will be making decisions that affect you personally and professionally.
This year, members interviewed over 35 candidates hosted by Wayne Automatic Fire Sprinklers in Tampa, Quick Response Fire Protection in Orlando, Cox Fire Protection in Jacksonville, and UV Fire Protection Systems in Miami.
“Interviewing legislative candidates throughout the state has been a great opportunity to build relationships with future decision makers and educate them about the importance of the fire sprinkler industry,” said Suzanne Saults, chair of AFSA Florida. “We look forward to continued relationship development in the years to come.”
Win for Florida
In 2020, Joe Harding was just a guy running for office. During his interview, we connected on the understanding of the construction industry. AFSA Florida endorsed Harding and supported him with a check from our political committee. Harding became elected Representative Harding in 2021. He ran and passed three key bills for AFSA Florida. One of the bills passed increased the design or alteration of a fire sprinkler system from 49 heads or fewer to 249 before requiring an engineer’s seal, saving our members time and money.
Whether you’re looking in the pool, standing on the first step, or wading in the shallow end, I encourage you to take that “next step” in honing in the legislative process. That could mean paying attention to policy being passed, getting to know the people who represent your county or interviewing candidates. It doesn’t have to be big but take one step.
These successes would not be possible without the dedication and leadership of our executive committee, board, legislative committee, and lobbying firm. Our accomplishments have created a stronger camaraderie within our chapter, more participation, and a better fire sprinkler industry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Cox is the executive director for the AFSA Florida Chapter. For more information about the chapter or its legislative activities, email Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.