Leaders to State’s Top Associations Discuss Leadership, Advocacy and Impact
Borgerding credits members and “phenomenal” WHA team for association’s success
WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding participated in a panel discussion at the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) Legislative Exchange event on Feb. 9, joining other statewide association leaders to discuss legislative priorities for their industries.
Included in the panel along with Borgerding were Wisconsin Counties Association President and CEO Mark O’Connell, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association President and CEO Michelle Vetterkind, Wisconsin Realtors Association President and CEO Michael Theo and Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer.
Addressing the importance of industry advocacy such as those represented on stage, Borgerding noted, “it is absolutely critical to have an organization—and this holds true of everyone up here—that can bring you all together, and to unify—as much as is possible—the members of your association into one voice—one loud and influential voice.”
Asked about what he most enjoys about leading an advocacy organization, Borgerding noted the incredible work of WHA’s member hospitals and health systems as providing fuel to the association’s mission and cited his team’s expertise and enthusiasm as the driving force behind WHA’s successful advocacy efforts. “It is an absolute honor to work with, to develop and to help me develop, a phenomenal team of people at the Wisconsin Hospital Association,” he said. “That team is what I am most proud to lead and to be a part of.”
Noting the role that WHA plays advocating on behalf of its members, Borgerding added, “Advocacy takes many forms. It’s not just being up at the Capitol or lobbying legislators, though that is certainly the most understood definition of advocacy. It takes a lot of different forms.” Borgerding related that advocacy for hospitals and health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic expanded and broadened to include helping not only policymakers, but the general public understand the pandemic’s effect on the state’s health system and how hospitals have responded over and above their traditional services to keep their communities safe.
WCA’s O’Connell observed that the time has long passed that legislators could tap the perspectives of every stakeholder in an industry regarding a specific policy proposal, for example. “A lot of times, they’ll ask us, ‘You folks work it out. And come to me with some sort of compromise.” O’Connell added, “The organizations here are the top organizations in the state, and the most powerful organizations in the Capitol.”
A common misperception about industry advocacy all panelists agreed warranted pushback is the assumption that “special interest” organizations focus solely on a narrow range of issues only affecting their members. “Everything every one of us works on has ripple effects,” observed Borgerding. “And those ripple effects allow you to expand your scope of interest and expand the other organizations you’re working with.” The relationship between health care and rural economic development and the role that broadband expansion plays in the quality of life of citizens throughout the state are some examples of issues association leaders have collaborated on that offer wide-ranging benefits well beyond their memberships.
The Stop the COVID Spread! coalition, spearheaded by WHA and enthusiastically joined by 135 of the state’s leading health care business and advocacy organizations united to beat COVID-19, is another example of the power of collaboration between special interests. “We are all interconnected in many, many different ways,” explained Hillmer of Wisconsin Restaurant Association.
This story originally appeared in the February 10, 2022 edition of WHA Newsletter