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The essence of influence : community college presidents' experiences with Washington state legislators

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  • The purpose of this study was to identify the strategies and tactics community college presidents used to influence state legislators. Selected State Board for Community and Technical Colleges staff and legislative staff members were asked to independently name 3-5 presidents whom they perceived to be most influential with legislators. Ten names were nominated; however, only five presidents were invited to participate in the study. The research identified five strategies and supporting tactics presidents used to influence state legislators. The strategies and tactics were: Strategy One: Build and Maintain a Relationship with Legislators and the tactics were: cultivate the relationship, make the interactions worthwhile, make personal contact, and invite legislators to campus; Strategy Two: Know the Players and the Process and the tactics were: contact legislative staff, know the legislative structure and protocol, and know legislators' issues. Strategy Three: Become a Resource for Legislators and the tactics were: be factual and knowledgeable, be broader than the college, be an advisor, and be accessible. Strategy Four: Broaden your "Sphere of Influence" and the tactics were: involve the community and staff, work with other legislators, and be bipartisan. Strategy Five: Communicate and Frame the Issue and the tactics were: use State Board staff expertise, ask for legislators' support, make the message meaningful, and testify at hearings. The findings suggest that successful community college presidents must develop personal and professional relationships with legislators based on honesty, trust, respect, care, and genuineness. Presidents should devote time to learning the legislative process to determine when and how decisions are made and by which political leaders. Because political work is time consuming, presidents must involve others, such as community leaders, faculty and staff, in the college's legislative activity. All the presidents in this study exhibited similar viewpoints on particular issues that the researcher contributes to these presidents' ability to influence. The presidents shared common viewpoints related to how they viewed legislators, themselves, the college, and the community. Community college presidents must be actively involved in influencing public policy decisions that affect the mission, finances, curriculum, support services, facilities, and overall operations of the college.
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