Lobbying firms will represent county government in Washington, Raleigh

Published 12:01 am Friday, December 10, 2021

SALISBURY — Rowan County will soon have an expanded presence in the state and United States capitals after hiring two lobbying firms.

The first time county government has hired lobbyists, commissioners first broached the subject last year and approved contracts with the selected firms at a meeting last week.

Strategics Consulting will represent the county’s interests in the Washington D.C. and McGuireWoods will work for Rowan in Raleigh. The county will pay both firms $5,000 per month for their services, which includes biweekly updates to the Board of Commissioners by email, aid in monitoring legislation and policies that potentially affect the county as well as yearly strategic meetings to set specific goals for upcoming years.

Based in Washington D.C., Strategics Consulting and was founded by Leslie Mozingo in 2013.

Chairman Greg Edds said Strategics Consulting stood out during the hiring process because of Mozingo’s familiarity with the area. Strategics Consulting has lobbied for the city of Salisbury since August of 2019 for a rate of $4,000 per month. 

“We felt like (Mozingo) was the one who knew most about Rowan County and was really here on the ground,” Edds said.

Strategics Consulting has garnered $3 million in federal and other grants for the city since it was hired, according to Salisbury Communications Director Linda McElroy.

“It has been really valuable for the amount of grant opportunities that we’ve had and that we’ve won as a result of our relationship with (Mozingo’s) firm,” Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander said.

Alexander said the firm was instrumental in helping the city land a $500,000 Brownfields Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to help remediate the contaminated Kesler Mill site.

Along with helping the city secure grant funding, Alexander said Strategics has also helped council members “streamline” their goals and determine how their priorities match up with funding available through the federal government.

“They have their thumb on the pulse on what’s coming down the pike in terms of funds,” Alexander said.

Alexander recommended Strategics Consulting to the county’s leadership as it vetted potential lobbying firms. She is hopeful the hiring of the firm will help align the city and county’s interests. Edds said he expects that will be the case.

“We think there will be some real synergy between what she’s already doing with Salisbury and with us,” Edds said.

In addition to her experience lobbying for Salisbury, Mozingo has been a consultant to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. She has been a lobbyist and consultant to regional council of governments that encompasses nine counties and 74 municipalities, representing almost two million people, according to the company’s website.

It’s important for Rowan County to have Strategics representing its interests in the nation’s capital, Edds said, because the county is inevitably going to face “bigger issues that require a bigger audience.”

McGuireWoods is a national consulting firm that will provide consulting and lobbying services for Rowan County in Raleigh. Edds said the county was impressed with the firm’s “stellar reputation” among state legislatures. Harry Kaplan, a senior advisor at the firm, will be Rowan County’s direct contact. Kaplan has been a lobbyist with the North Carolina General Assembly for 30 years and is a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, according to the company’s website.

Before the two lobbying firms begin their work for Rowan County next month, Edds said they will visit with county leaders and staff to learn more about the county’s expectations and priorities.

“Our first point of order with them will be to sit down face to face,” Edds said. “We’ll probably spend a day with the firms, talking with different stakeholders and making sure, especially with McGuireWoods, that they understand what our needs are and why we’re hiring lobbyists.”

After interacting with lobbyists for 12 years during her time in the Wisconsin state legislature, commissioner Judy Klusman will know what to expect from the firms. Klusman spoke glowingly of her past experiences with lobbyists.

“I would say that 99% of the lobbyists that I worked with were just caring, straight arrow people that wanted to make sure that we got the laws correct so they could be workable for the people and the businesses of the state,” Klusman said. 

Klusman said her list of priorities for the firms will be to track legislative proposals and help the county apply for grants, specifically those that can help with current efforts to improve healthcare and prevent juvenile crime. 

“I would really like to see an increase in the grants we get from the state and that goes through the Department of Public Safety,” Klusman said. “We have, once again, children at risk. We want to catch the kids before they get involved with the juvenile justice system.”

Edds said his list of priorities for the firms will include economic development, infrastructure, education, workforce development and transportation.

Although this is the first time the county has used the service of lobbyists, Edds said it won’t be difficult to determine whether Rowan is receiving a good rate of return. He expects the lobbying efforts to yield favorable legislative action and result in the county receiving more funding through grants and other government programs.