Keep messages from Maine coming
I sometimes find it hard to believe that, for three years now, I have had the privilege of representing you and the state of Maine in the U.S. Senate. But even more astounding — and something that strikes me every time I see it — is the number of communications I have with people in Maine each year.
So far in 2015, I have received almost 100,000 messages from more than 30,000 people in the state. This is a high level of public engagement that is not only a testament to Maine people, but is also incredibly valuable to me. With the help of my staff, I place great emphasis on making sure each message I receive is reviewed, responded to, and used to inform my work in Washington.
Hearing from you helps me know, firsthand, the priorities of people in Maine so that I can clear obstacles and promote prosperity in our state and around the nation. On issues where we agree, your message helps me continue to pursue the issue and advance its consideration on the national stage. In cases where we do not see eye-to-eye, I feel a deep obligation to explain why I disagree and share the information that has shaped my position.
I receive an average of 2,000 personal messages each week — hundreds per day — that come in via e-mail, phone call, written letter, and face-to-face interactions at my staff’s “Your Government, Your Neighborhood” outreach events in Maine. On top of that, my four offices track and tally an average of 650 opinions each week which folks in Maine share without wanting a response. This volume can be daunting, but with the help and diligence of my staff and interns, the mail is sorted into meaningful categories. Each message receives the attention of relevant staff within a day and is brought to my attention shortly thereafter, with my response going out within a couple weeks. Because this effort is intricate and not always visible to people in Maine, I think it is important to give everyone some insight into how it works.
Messages pertaining to certain policy issues — such as immigration or student loans — are sorted by topic. Messages from folks who get in touch with me for help interacting with a federal agency — referred to as constituent service inquiries — are directed to a constituent service representative in one of my three Maine offices. These members of my staff have close relationships with federal agencies and, while keeping me apprised of their progress, work to relay information and secure solutions to individuals’ concerns.
It takes a coordinated effort to handle all of these incoming questions and opinions, starting with my staff and interns, who answer calls to the front desk, and moving down the line to my correspondence, policy, and senior staff, who organize it all and help draft my responses. While my other responsibilities keep me from drafting all of my response from the start, I scrutinize each one to make sure that it is no different than if I had. You might be interested to know that it is exceedingly rare for me to not edit or add to a response before I approve it for use.
Over the past three years, I have worked to take input from staff and constituents and use it to improve the process. In doing so, the process has become more comprehensive, efficient, and streamlined — all of which means I can be more responsive to the people of Maine.
I like to think of Maine as a big small town — and in a small town, the leaders are accessible and eager to listen. In that spirit, I’ve made it a priority here in the Senate to stay connected with people from all over Maine who e-mail, write, and call me with suggestions or questions. If I am ever able to assist in your interaction with a federal agency, or you have thoughts, concerns, or personal input on a matter that is currently before Congress — or should be — I hope that you will contact me, let me know where you stand, and engage in this critical part of democracy.