Culbeck makes Washington lobbying trip
Haines Borough executive assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck took on the temporary role of lobbyist during a recent five-day trip to Washington, D.C ., meeting with lawmakers and organizations to promote borough interests.
Culbeck traveled to Washington as the Alaska delegate for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and lobbied on its behalf for two days, but asked Mayor Stephanie Scott and interim manager Julie Cozzi if he could stay for a couple more days and work for the borough.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program that funds acquisition of land for public purposes, paid for Culbeck’s travel expenses, he said.
Culbeck called the trip “incredibly valuable,” and said the most constructive meetings he had concerned the harbor expansion project, including one with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where he discussed whether the Corps might reengage on the project and get Haines another $10 million through the president’s budget.
While he acknowledged much of lobbying is just talking to people and “playing the game,” Culbeck said it’s also about informing legislators and delegates about the relative importance of projects and policies that might seem insignificant or trivial to people who live and work thousands of miles away.
“We were educating people, going back there and saying this (project), maybe here in Washington, D.C ., it seems like a faraway thing, but to us it’s kind of a big deal. It’s important,” Culbeck said.
“They’re not just going to give you money for no reason. You have to tell them the story and convince them of your story,” he said.
Culbeck also met with representatives from the offices of Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski to discuss topics ranging from Secure Rural Schools payments to the Haines Highway project.
Culbeck didn’t meet with the Federal Highway Administration, but did discuss the Haines Highway improvements with Begich’s staff.
“We were giving him the perspective that the Haines Borough has passed resolutions in favor of this and we know it is going back for review and changes, and hopefully the environmental changes that come from all the public comment will be acceptable to him,” he said.
During discussions of wood-pellet projects, Begich’s office also put Culbeck in contact with people at the USDA Rural Development office. Culbeck, Scott and assembly member George Campbell attended the Alaska Municipal League conference in Anchorage the following week.
Scott said Culbeck’s visit was worthwhile, especially because the travel was on the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s dime.
“It is about relationships and making those relationships work, finding out what the legislator needs in order for a project to get traction and then going back and getting that,” Scott said.