Using Your Voice: Tips for Connecting with Local Elected Representatives


Have you ever wondered how to get involved in your local government but felt overwhelmed? I hear you! I serve on my local City Council and still find it confusing at times. To help, I put together two sets of lists of tips and tricks for those looking to get more involved. In this list, I cover tips for connecting with local elected representatives to share your views. In my other list, I share tips on how to stay looped in on the latest local government happenings.

What works best when contacting to local elected officials?

When it comes to connecting with your local elected officials, I don’t think there is one best mode. Email, phone, letters, public meetings are all part of the landscape. I think it varies depending on your comfort level and the type of person receiving the message. In my role on City Council, I’ve been contacted in any number of ways and have also seen my fellow elected officials react (or not react) to different approaches. While there are differences, I think there are some shared characteristics that make communication more (or less) effective at getting your message across. Here are my tips for reaching out to local elected representatives.

Be Authentic

I’d much rather get an email that might not have all the details straight but shows genuine concern or ideas than a form letter fired off from a website. When you are connecting with local elected representatives, be sure to connect your message to your own story.

Make it short and sweet

You might find it hard to write about things that you are passionate about in a brief way.  With the volume we get at times, the really long messages are often the ones I have to skim. As a silver lining it means that you don’t have to be an expert, just write from your heart!

Write or call in a timely manner

If the meeting is at 7pm and the email or voicemail comes in at 6 or 6:30, I might not see it in time (having dinner, doing final meeting prep). That doesn’t mean don’t send it, just realize it might not influence my thinking for that night (but I will still read it).

Know your audience

Check who represents your ward and write them and any at-large representatives as opposed to just a blanket message to all representatives. If you want your representative to really take your issue to heart, I think directing the message is an important step. If you do write to everyone, I encourage you to list your Ward or Street. That way those reading the message have a sense of which representative should take the lead on action or follow-up.

Be clear

When connecting with Local elected officials, stating if you want a reply or just want to share your views is so helpful. At the local level and state level we are basically volunteers so time spent reading emails and answering calls is on top of our day jobs and family responsibilities. Knowing what the writer or caller is looking to have happen is a great help. 

Remember we are basically volunteers

You’d be amazed at some of the messages we get! While I know it shouldn’t really matter, I appreciate messages that in some way acknowledge that serving is hard work or that the writer/caller recognizes that I’m not an idiot. Folks often comment on elected officials being lazy or not being worth the investment. I wonder sometimes how many people realize that in New Hampshire state and local elected roles are not full time. State reps in New Hampshire get $100 a year or $1.92 per week. In my community, School Board members and City Councilors are marginally better compensated at a whopping $1000 per year, which comes out to $19.23 per week. Not exactly raking it in… 

Consider the Value of Speaking at a Public Meeting

I recognize that everyone is busy and has many things on their plates. But I think when people attend and speak at a public meeting, those comments carry some added weight.  It can be terrifying to speak in public, but each time you do, it gets better. It is okay to be nervous and/or bring notes. I still write out what I want to say in note form before I speak so I don’t forget what points I want to make. Meeting timing can make it hard for families or those working certain shifts to attend. You can ask your ward or at-large representative to read a letter for you if you can’t attend. Speaking at a meeting shows others what you think is important. And perhaps most beneficial, it enables members of the community to get out of their echo chambers and hear what others think as well. 

Make Reaching Out Part of Your Routine

I heard a tip once from a family who kept a list of numbers for their elected representatives at all levels taped to their fridge. They picked one number a day to call while they were making breakfast or dinner. They would leave a message to share what was on their mind on a range of issues. While I haven’t instituted this trick exactly, I keep the numbers saved in my phone. That way I don’t have to look them up if the mood strikes and I want to call to leave a message. Many municipalities have a listing of local representatives that you can have handy (see for example Dover’s list). Check out your local municipal website to see what info they provide!


Perhaps most important of all, make sure you are registered to vote. Municipal elections tend to be very sparsely attended which means a small number of voters end up deciding who represents the community. Make sure you vote in local elections and not just state and federal ones!

It can feel overwhelming, but keep at it!

You might feel overwhelmed at the prospect of writing, calling, emailing or showing up at a public meeting.  I promise you that as local elected officials we want to hear from residents even if we might not agree fully. It is important for me to have a sense of what members of our community are thinking, what they are feeling, and what they are experiencing as I make my decisions. That’s why connecting with local elected representatives is so important.

What other questions do you have about connecting with your local representatives? What tips do you have for speaking at public meetings?


  1. You made an interesting point when you mentioned that it is a good idea to write from your heart when you are trying to contact a local elected official. I would think that it would be a good idea to contact local candidates when they are running for a position. That way you can learn more about the candidate before you vote for them.

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