The saying “Accept the things you cannot change” is something I pondered frequently prior to taking on the Colorado legislative system this past year. And quite frankly I am still in a bit of wonderment that I was mistaken in my notion that my voice and vote didn’t matter.
I truly felt there was no way to change our circumstances and get a law through in Colorado that would benefit the snow and ice industry. Little did I know, although it did take some effort, it was certainly not the mountain to climb that I envisioned. I believe it’s like anything in life, fear of the unknown gives one the sense of it being impossible. But I also know that nothing changes without attempting.
It started with several seasons of frustration with both the liability and insurance increasing for our industry, followed by deep rooted anger with the situation, you know the kind that gnaws at you, and makes you want to just scream out loud. “This is NOT fair” like an eight-year-old.
At first, I reached out to key competitors, the heavy hitters in town, next to everyone I knew whether they knew me or not. It didn’t matter, I was determined to convince them that we were allies in this battle, not rivals. The one thing I knew from the get-go, I could not go it alone, to be a voice of significance, we needed to be a unified group.
With little effort, I had four of the largest players in the Metro ready to take a stand with me, and soon others joined. Of course, there were people that didn’t feel comfortable in participating, but I did get a commitment if the circumstances warranted they would join the movement.
At the start it was intimidating and we all felt a bit like it was in the biblical sense, when David met Goliath, us against the Colorado legislature. But with the assistance of Kevin Gilbride, ASCA, who had experience not only with the passing of the law in Illinois but with the government in general, we had our Army General, I just needed to be the boots on the ground in Colorado.
Our next step was to figure out how to reach the key decision makers, the house and senate. Like anything these days, the information was literally a click away. Honestly is anything private anymore? Once we knew who was in our district, we were on the chase. First, by sending e-mails to set up meetings, of which many were more than willing, while some requests went without response. But we didn’t care, we were making progress. Within a two-week period, we had 13 meetings lined up between both parties. Seventeen of us attended the meetings April 26, 2017, representing 12 different organizations, yet a team of one.
By the time the meetings were over that day we had one Senator willing to carry the bill for us! We were on top of the mountain. The only thing that deflated our efforts ever so slightly, was that the legislative session for Colorado 2017 was virtually over. Our efforts would have to reconvene in 2018. And that we did. January, we hit the ground running, of the seventeen that joined us in April, we were down to five that could commit the time and energy. At the same time the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado (ALCC) had received word of our mission and wanted to join in, so with the efforts of ASCA and ALCC we had a full military arsenal.
The month of March and April were a frenzy of meetings, both with legislators, each other, as well as testifying in front of the committees for the house and senate, sharing our story. We told them our pains, struggles and our deep desire to stay in business and in the end, it worked! Of course, there were legislators that felt otherwise, but the system worked, just like any other voting in the US. Whoever has the most vote’s wins.
I now have a greater appreciation for the government, my fellow competitors and myself. We started out as a few people with a desire to make a difference, and we did.
For the contractors in the states that have not taken the next step, I urge you to consider. For those who are in the heat of the battle now, don’t give up. As Theodore Roosevelt said “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
I would be remiss if I did not personally thank the group who made this all possible, Kevin Gilbride, Executive Director ASCA; ALCC, its board and John McMahon, Executive Director; Jay Hicks, lobbyist; Shanae Dix, Vice President CAM Services; Chad Lunde, Vice President and Todd Lunde, Director of Operations with Martinson Snow Removal;W Matt Harmon, Owner of Denver Commercial Property Services, Colorado Senator Dominick Moreno and Representative Jovan Melton.