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How to Get a Legislator to Visit Your Site and Why

Judith A. Bense

Last year northwest Florida elected a Republican freshman, Joe Scarborough, who was sent to Washington to change the way Congress does business. He has strong voter support in the area, and has been selected to run to fill the vacancy for "Freshman Class President." As a way to educate Rep. Scarborough about archaeology in his district, I picked up the phone one day last summer, called his district office, and invited him to visit the site that we were excavating at the Naval Air Station. To my surprise, he immediately accepted and we set a date.

He arrived one hot summer day with a small entourage and his six-year-old son, Joey. We spent a couple of hours looking at open test units in the old 18th-century Spanish Presideo and at artifacts and computer maps in the lab. I provided Rep. Scarborough with some background and then I asked the students, volunteers, and staff to explain what they had found in their unit. In this short span of time I learned that Rep. Scarborough, who has a B.A. in history easily understood that Pensacola's heritage was important to the community and that the archaeological record interpreted through our project provided a great deal of knowledge. He learned that the project was funded by the Department of Defense's Legacy program and asked how he could help. I told him that I would let him know when the time came.

As many of you know, funding for the Legacy program has been greatly reduced, and the appropriated funds are currently being withheld. These funds are important to the research that I am conducting at the Naval Air Station. I have informed Rep. Scarborough about the situation and explained to him that we can't complete the project he visited without the continued funding. Because of the impact that the lack of funding will have in his district, he is eager to work on the problem.

Rep. Scarborough's willingness to help is tied directly to his visit to the site and understanding of how the work conducted there is important to the community. I want to stress that arranging the site visit and tour was easy. It took very little effort and both Rep. Scarborough and I learned a lot about each other. I encourage all of you to call your congressional representatives and show them the archaeology in their districts. Take it from me; it is worth the effort.

Judith A. Bense is chair of the Government Affairs Network.

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