MARCO ISLAND — Your elected representatives are eager to hear from you. Whether you need help in cutting through governmental red tape, want to vent your concern about a problem the classic one is potholes or would just like to weigh in with your opinion on any issue, your legislators’ doors are always open. Sort of.
While they are, as they repeat, in person, on the phone and on their official websites, more than happy to hear from you, officeholders are a little coy about giving out their email addresses, let alone a cellphone number. The legislators’ online sites tend to include “contact” pages, where you fill in the boxes on their form and submit your message, but never get to see the email address to which you are sending.
Congressman Trey Radel’s site takes it one step further. Before you can email him, you are required to fill in your ZIP+4 return address, which positively identifies you, and then you still don’t get to see his email. Of course, Radel is notoriously high-tech, and one of the growing number of elected officials you can follow on Twitter, and respond with your own tweet.
For Florida state representatives, such as Kathleen Passidomo, who represents District 106, which includes Marco Island, the state email system is easy to decipher, she said.
“It’s first name plus dot, then last name at myfloridahouse.gov.” So Passidomo’s email, as she is happy to share, is Kathleen.Passidomo@myfloridahouse.gov. She also has a district office in Naples.
Passidomo is taking constituent outreach seriously, to the point where she is a member of the current Leadership Marco class. “Marco Island is an important part of my district, and I want to know more of what’s going on,” she said. “I’m on the island about once a week.”
Collier County District One Commissioner Donna Fiala fields a large volume of constituent communications, she said.
“There are so many things going on. People are talking about the new Bayshore cultural center, the Fresh Market getting set to open, and the fire district consolidation on Isles of Capri. There’s a lot of heartache on that one. I try to answer each and every one, even if only to say I don’t have anything good to offer right now.”
For the most local of government representatives, your City Councilors, Council Chairman Joe Batte said the best way to contact them officially is via the city’s website.
“That’s the proper place. Then it’s on the record, because everything on the city website is public record,” he said. “We’re all there you can send to one or all of us,” he said of his fellow councilors. At the same time, he said that, living on Marco Island, his life and that of all Marco’s City Councilors tends to be one continuous round of constituent service.
“It’s one of the pleasures of being a public servant. People see you in Publix and say, ‘hey, Joe.’ You always get people sharing their thoughts,” he said. “We work for the taxpayers. They’re our shareholders, and we need to hear the feedback.” Batte said he believes this council is the most responsive to citizen input the city has ever had.
At the Federal level, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Senator Marco Rubio each have eight district offices throughout Florida, in addition to their Washington addresses. Nelson’s closest office is in Fort Myers, while Rubio has an office in Naples. On Nelson’s official government website, the first thing you see at the top of the homepage is “constituent services how to get help from Bill and his staff.”
If you need to go all the way to the top, you can contact President Barack Obama via “snail mail” at perhaps the most famous street address in the world, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But as the White House website points out, to ensure your message reaches the President, or at least his office, you should have the full, correct address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Northwest, Washington, D.C. 20500. The White House has its very own zip code.
The website, www.whitehouse.gov, also helpfully provides two distinct phone numbers, one if you just want to leave a comment, and another for the switchboard if you actually want to speak to someone. It probably won’t be the President.
If the officeholders are happy to engage in discussions with their constituents, the same cannot be said for their staff’s willingness to talk to anyone who identifies himself as a member of the media. You can almost hear the staffers internal alarm going off, as they remember “I’m not authorized.” A press-friendly contact will get back to reporters, but bona fide members of the public are free to talk to district staffers, and vice versa. At Marco Rubio’s district office in Naples, the regional director is Zachary Zampella, reachable at (239) 213-1521.
And finally, if you don’t want to go to the effort of contacting any of your elected representatives, particularly at the state level or above, and would rather let them contact you, it’s easy. Just send any amount of money to their reelection campaign, and from that moment, you will be deluged with messages, updates, and the suggestion that they could really use any additional dollars you could spare.
Pres. Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Comments (202) 456-1111; switchboard (202) 456-1414
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
District office: Justice Center Annex Building, 2000 Main Street, Suite 801, Fort Myers, FL 33901
Phone: (239) 334-7760
Fax: (239) 334-7710
Sen. Marco Rubio
District office, 3299 E. Tamiami Trail, Suite 106, Naples, FL 34112
Phone: (239) 213-1521
U.S. Representative Trey Radel
District office: 3299 Tamiami Trail Suite 105, Naples, FL 34112
Phone: (239) 252-6225
Florida Governor Rick Scott
Office of Governor Rick Scott, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Phone: (850) 488-7146
State Senator Garrett Richter, District 23
District office: 3299 E. Tamiami Trail, Suite 203, Naples, FL 34112-4961
Phone: (239) 417-6205
Senate VOIP: 42300
State Representative Kathleen Passidomo, District 106
District office: Suite 304, 3299 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, FL 34112-5746
Phone: (239) 417-6200
County Commissioner Donna Fiala, District 1
Satellite office: 1040 Winterberry Drive, Marco Island, FL 34145
Phone: (239) 252-8601
Marco Island City Council
Council Chairman Joe Batte; Vice Chairman Ken Honecker; Councilors Bob Brown, Larry Honig, Chuck Kiester, Amadeo Petricca, Larry Sacher
Marco Island City Hall: 50 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island, FL 34145
Phone: (239) 389-5000
Email: email@example.com (first initial plus last name @marcocitycouncil.com for all councilors).