Education, policy, and advocacy are primary focus areas of the Florida Floodplain Managers Association (FFMA) 2016 Strategic Plan. Focus area Champions, the Board of Directors, and the members have been working hard to move the strategic goals forward. To this end, your Chair and ASFPM Region 4 Director, Del Schwalls, and your Associate Legislative Director and Policy Champion, Claire Jubb took the FFMA mission to Washington, DC in late July.

Our parent organization, the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), has a very active presence in DC and encourages the state chapters to join them in their efforts to advocate for sound floodplain management and flood insurance legislation. They maintain an apartment in Alexandria, just outside DC, which is available for visitors from the chapters to use, free of charge, and have staff in DC to guide visitors through this experience.

As soon as flights were confirmed, Merrie Inderfurth, Washington Liaison for ASFPM, and David Conrad, Water Resources Specialist for ASFPM, went to work setting up appointments with members of the Florida delegation. Focusing on Senators and Representatives who are engaged in the various aspects of floodplain management and flood insurance, Merrie and David quickly put together a packed schedule.

Claire Jubb and Del Schwalls with Rhonda Montgomery, Deputy Director in the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate

Claire Jubb and Del Schwalls with Rhonda Montgomery, Deputy Director in the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate

After spending our first evening strategizing, studying proposed legislation, and exploring Alexandria a little, we headed out to meet Merrie and David at the Dirksen Senate building in the heart of DC. Although it wasn’t the first time for either of us in the Capitol, (Del lived and worked in DC for almost four years early in his career), it was our first time doing something like this. We were both excited to make a good impression and represent our profession, FFMA, and ASFPM well!

Meeting Merrie and David, we quickly realized how much we needed their experience and guidance. They have both spent many years working in DC and we couldn’t have hoped for better mentors. They set up meetings with staff from both Florida Senator Rubio and Senator Scott, along with staff from various Representatives from around the State.

Going in for our first meeting with Harry Kumar, Senator Rubio’s Legislative Aide, was a little nerve-wracking. Merrie and David helped us by guiding the conversation, prompting us when we needed help, and making sure we remembered to mention all of the points we wanted to make.

It only took one meeting for us to both realize we were in our element. We were able to speak with people who can really make a difference and give them insight on how policy developed in DC actually impacts those of us who work with the results of these policies daily.

If you know either of us, you know we are both self-proclaimed flood geeks and are quick to talk floodplain management to any one, at any time. Something we discovered through this is we have very different skill sets. One of us is a planner who works in local government and gets to deal with residents and elected officials daily, while the other is an engineer in the private sector who handles more of the technical aspects of floodplain management. We found that our skills complimented each other well, and together we were able to give balanced and wide-ranging perspectives on proposed legislation.

As our meetings progressed, we became more and more comfortable in this new arena and were able to focus our discussions on aspects that would be of the greatest importance to the people we were meeting with. Not only was it the first time FFMA had visited DC, it was the first time the staff had heard of us. We took the opportunity to educate them on the fantastic work FFMA and ASFPM members do, and how we advocate for our profession. We offered our 1,000 FFMA members as a resource for anything related to floodplain management and flood insurance in Florida, and really elevated the importance of our work. During the entire time, we felt welcomed and that we were really being heard. The staff members were eager for our thoughts and input.

We also got into the details of two bills moving through both the House and the Senate, and were able to express our opinions on the positives and negatives of each bill. Being able to bring a Florida perspective on proposed legislation to the staff of our Florida delegation really helped them understand the impact of their decisions on Floridians.

In addition to those meetings, we took the opportunity to connect with two groups FFMA has been working with for some time. We were lucky enough to meet with Velma Smith and Evan Chapman from the Pew Charitable Trusts, to discuss their flood-prepared communities initiative. FFMA started partnering with Pew in 2018 to advocate for legislation to improve floodplain management. Our meeting focused on strengthening this partnership and identifying areas where we could work together in the future.

Group birthday celebration for Del Schwalls

Group birthday celebration for Del Schwalls

Our last meeting, held at the end of a busy two days and just before heading to happy hour to celebrate Del’s birthday, was a visit to the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate. We were honored to meet with Rhonda Montgomery, the Deputy Advocate. We were able to learn more about the fantastic work the Flood Insurance Advocate’s Office is doing to help policy holders navigate the National Flood Insurance Program. Importantly, we also learned more about how floodplain professionals can help promote the services of the Advocate’s Office and what their function and mission is.

During our entire visit to DC, we kept FFMA’s Strategic Plan front and center. We advocated for our profession and our members, we educated the Florida delegation about how floodplain management legislation impacts Floridians, and we worked with our legislators to develop policy that makes sense for Florida.

This visit will not be the last; FFMA has a strong voice, a huge amount of experience, expertise, and a passion for improving the lives of Floridians. We hope we made you and our association proud, and are honored to be able to represent such a talented and dedicated group of professionals.

In your service,

Claire Jubb, AICP, CFM | FFMA Associate Legislative Director