Landing an appointment to a government board and commission is far more strategic than simply filling out an application.
Leaders who want to use their experience, skills and talent to impact public policy but realize that elected office isn’t a possibility (at least not in the short term) should consider serving on a local or state government board or commission.
But landing an appointment is far more strategic than simply filling out an application.
In addition to teaching engagement strategies for business-minded exploring and prospective elected leaders, The Central Florida Political Leadership Institute, a nonpartisan program of the Orlando Economic Partnership, offers participants an educational track on how to land appointments to government boards and commissions.
While a number of strategies are taught by appointment experts, there are three keys that stand out:
1) Make certain it’s the right fit.
Don’t assume that a board’s title or brief online description will tell you all you need to know.
A PLI participant, an accountant, told me that he was preparing to apply to a local government board called the Government Accountability Commission, where he assumed he could use his accounting expertise on fiscal issues.
When I suggested he conduct a deeper-dive to research the board, he discovered that the commission addressed government ethics, not finances.
Beyond collecting publicly-available information, prospects should attend the board’s public meetings, research board accomplishments, meet current board members (after all, you may be working with these people) and ask about their responsibilities and time commitment, learn whether there are professional qualifications that must be met and determine who really is responsible for making the appointment.
2) Line up your advocates.
Landing a board seat is like securing a great job or client; it’s often about who you know.
Listing referrals on an application isn’t enough. Do you have respected advocates — leaders with influence and “juice” — who can lobby for you?
If the office of the governor or your local mayor is responsible for making this appointment, you may not know these leaders but chances are you know someone who does.
In working with PLI members on their appointment plans, it’s amazing to discover that the contacts they already had knew the decision-makers and would be willing advocates if asked.
3) Aim high.
A small-business attorney, a PLI participant, had a premier board in mind but didn’t believe she had the influence yet to land a seat.
Instead, she was set on applying for a lesser-known, frankly obscure, appointment hoping to climb the appointment ladder. (It’s not a strategy we advise.)
At the same time, one of her community’s most coveted boards (not her targeted appointment) was conducting a very public search to fill a vacancy and I encouraged her to apply, playing up her small business expertise, because of the unique opportunity she would have to connect with leaders she otherwise may not have had the opportunity to meet.
That’s exactly what happened. During the vetting process, she met with key staff in the mayor’s office, city council members and influential business leaders because she was an appointment candidate.
During the interview process, a city council member told her that she would be a better fit for another board appointment that would open soon — for the targeted board she had in mind all along. She landed that seat.
The difference this business leader and other graduates have made on boards and commissions is a significant contribution to the strength of our economy and outstanding quality of life. That’s why business leaders throughout the region should explore these opportunities and why PLI is here to equip, encourage and empower them to succeed through the process.
To learn more about the Central Florida Political Leadership Institute, apply for the 2021 class by January 8 (it’s free) or discover the Partnership’s advocacy and public policy efforts, please visit www.cflpli.org or contact Christine Aponte at Christine.Aponte@orlando.org.