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HayesBy Stuart Wilson
Have you ever had difficulty getting an answer from a state or federal agency? Are you frustrated and at your wit's end dealing with the Veterans Administration or the Social Security Administration or the Florida Department of Revenue? Do you think you're getting lost in a bureaucratic shuffle? Don't worry, you can get help.

Just get in touch with your state or national-level elected officials. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, Congressman Daniel Webster, State Senator Alan Hays, and State Representative Larry Metz all have local offices with staff dedicated to constituent support. They are waiting for your call, email, or letter to begin the process of getting you the help you need.

Their span of responsibility reflects the sizes of their districts and the number of constituents they serve. It also determines the number of offices and staff they have.

Hays' and Metz's areas of responsibility areState of Florida issues. Nevertheless, if someone calls about an issue with a federal agency, their staffs will usually refer callers to Congressman Webster's staff, and vice versa.

Their staffs are anxious to help. "By the time people reach out to us, they are frustrated," said Jennifer Wylie, district aide to Metz. "Often they have been handed off so many times, they are exhausted. Sometimes, they just want a call back, an answer," she added.

The staffs are highly experienced at figuring the right office to contact on behalf of constituents or, if necessary, actually making contact with that office on their behalf. It is likely they have had to answer a similar call.

The staffs act as liaisons or middlemen to help constituents with their issues. As they work with constituents, they take great care to manage their expectations.

"We make it clear to individuals that we cannot override agency actions or decisions," said Renee Hodges, the district chief legislative assistant in Hays' Clermont office. They try to resolve constituent issues as fast as possible, but some answers take time.

Even so, "Getting an answer is important, " said Elizabeth Tyrrell, communications director for Webster. However, sometimes the staffs can't resolve an issue or get the answer an individual wants. "Even a 'No' is welcome, because it addresses the uncertainty that callers face," Tyrell added.

Nevertheless, "If someone is having difficulty with their Medicaid Access account, for example, it isn't working and they can't get an answer or help, my placing a inquiry on behalf of Rep. Metz to find out what is happening is often a sufficient nudge to get the issue resolved," said Wylie. "That's the best part of my job, helping people" she added. This sentiment was echoed across the three officials' staffs.

It is important to note that the staffs do more than just help individuals with issues. Elected officials are elected to act on legislation. So, "If a constituent has an idea for a law, or if they need help understanding a law or some piece of legislation under consideration in Tallahassee, then give us a call," said Wylie. Webster's and Hays' staff voiced similar comments

The staffs were quick to point out that party affiliations played no role in their willingness or ability to support constituent's requests. They said that every call is important to them.

Even when they get calls that don't pertain to state or federal agencies, they still act as referral resources. "I sometimes get calls about difficulty paying electric bills. In those instances, I refer individuals to local agencies like the United Way or Goodwill, for example," Wylie noted.

There are several websites in Tallahassee or Washington, DC that help you find the names and contact information of your elected officials. These include myfloridahouse.gov, flsenate.gov, and webster.house.gov.

Senator Bill Nelson has an office in Orlando (407-872-7040). His director of constituent services is Sherry Davich.

Senator Marco Rubio also has an office in Orlando (407-254-25730). His point of contact is Thomas Self.

Congressman Webster maintains local offices in Winter Garden, Tavares, Clermont, and Winter Haven. The Winter Garden office (407-654-5705) is open Monday – Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm. The office in Tavares (352-383-3552) is open every Tuesday. The Clermont office (352-383-3552) is open every Thursday. The Winter Haven office (863-453-0273) is open on Mondays and Fridays.

Senator Hays maintains offices in Tallahassee, Clermont, Umatilla, and The Villages. The Tallahassee office (850-487-5011) is open during committee weeks and sessions. The contact number for Clermont is 352-241-9344; for Umatilla is 352-742-6441; for The Villages is 352-360-6739.

Representative Metz has offices in Tallahassee and Groveland. The contact number for Tallahassee is 850-717-5032; for Groveland, it is 352-989-9134.


daniel webster
The staffs of your elected officials can help you
cut through red tape with government agencies
Congressman Daniel Webster's office is always available to help constituents. Webster is quick to point out that his job is to help the public when dealing with the federal government. (Photo by Mike Corradino)
Larry Metz
State Representative Larry Metz addresses a veterans group during Memorial Day services. Metz's office is available to anyone dealing with state issues regardless of political party. (Photo by Mike Corradino)
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