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In the Words of 2018’s Leading Association Lobbyists

The Salute to Association Excellence is celebrating its 39th Anniversary in 2018. This annual awards luncheon honors the brightest stars of the association community and their commitment to excellence. This year, Association TRENDS is honoring four of the industry’s leading Association Lobbyists. We sat down with each of them one on one to discuss their careers, accomplishments, and insights.


Carmen Elliott, MS

Payment Policy & Practice Management VP, American Physical Therapy Association

“First, advocating for a profession that is focused on optimizing movement to improve the quality of life in individuals is an honor. Physical therapists are an instrumental part of the healthcare system and provide critical services for improving individuals’ health and function across their lifespan. Second, in my leadership role, I am fortunate that I work in areas that allow me to see perspectives from multiple viewpoints. What does that mean? Not only do I provide strategic direction in our advocacy and policy efforts with federal agencies and health insurance plans, but I also oversee and work closely with members in our practice management efforts, which is a business strategy intended to help our members overcome the challenges in today’s dynamic healthcare environment and adapt to the needs of our patients. Each area feeds into the other, which allows for us to better understand our policy needs and helps inform strategy. Last, we have a mantra at APTA- “Better together.” Advocacy requires teamwork. Through our collaborative efforts with our members, stakeholders, and coalition groups, we have made strides in ensuring our voice is heard and our patients have access to vital services.”

Joe M. Franco, MPS
Vice President, Grassroots, LeadingAge

“I have had the honor to work with an incredibly talented group of advocacy professionals throughout my career and they all should receive recognition for the incredible amount of work we have accomplished. The profession of lobbying is now more important than ever to our democracy and it is incredibly rewarding to work alongside passionate volunteer advocates who fight for change. With so many pressing issues in the world today, elected officials at the state and federal level are relying on advocacy staff and constituents to be informed about the needs of American citizens and how to best serve the interest of local communities. This year we have seen the incredible power of grassroots advocacy, especially in the healthcare debates and how organizations have been able to unite and make a difference in a fast moving and complicated legislative process. The human element of the legislative process will always be a critical piece of the lobbying equation and we have truly seen the power of a personal story in making policy changes in our country.”

Matthew Haller, Government Relations, and Public Affairs, SVP
International Franchise Association

“I have always loved the intersection of legislative and advocacy campaigns, from my first days at UPS starting out in Washington 15 years ago, and continuing on to help build the U.S. Chamber of Commerce political shop with Bill Miller and Rob Engstrom into the powerhouse that it remains today – understanding that “politics comes before policy.” Aggressively integrated advocacy has become essential in Washington, and I’ve tried to institutionalize that type of an approach at IFA as the organization has grown in revenue, the caliber of employee that we are looking to bring to the team and the profile of the issues we are dealing with on behalf of our members. I give all the credit in the world to my colleagues who I get the privilege of working with every day, and my former boss, Steve Caldeira, and now current CEO, Robert Cresanti, for embracing this approach. The best advice I ever received was from U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue – “hire people smarter than you, and get out of the way.” You need all the players at the table – lobbyists, your PAC and political assets, grassroots, communications, and research, in order to be most effective at winning on an issue. At an association, all of our jobs are one big campaign in support of a singular cause – in our case, protecting and promoting the franchise business model. I’m lucky to represent some of the best people out there – those who have started brands and grown them and those who have put their life savings on the line to start a franchise in every corner of America. [Editor’s note: Donohue is a past TRENDS Association Executive of the Year.]”

Katie Vlietstra, Government Relations and Public Affairs, VP
National Association for the Self-Employed

“I am a firm believer in the power of relationships. Identifying common advocacy goals across different types of associations and political spectrums are what makes working in Washington fun and professionally fulfilling. No doubt our work can be challenging and sometimes you might have the best public policy position, and you still can’t breathe through, but that is when you roll up your sleeves and find new paths to push your legislative priorities. I love what I do and I am lucky to do it on behalf of our great members!”


To learn more about our lobbyists, visit http://www.associationtrends.com/salute-to-association-excellence/honorees.html.

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