The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America has bolstered its industry advocacy efforts with the hire of Robert Helland, who served as GCSAA’s Washington-based federal lobbyist from the law firm of Reed Smith LLC for the past 10 years. Helland joins GCSAA as director, congressional and federal affairs, and will work full time out of the Washington, D.C., area.
Helland will work directly for Chava McKeel, GCSAA director of government affairs, to strengthen GCSAA’s communication with policymakers in Washington, D.C. He will also support the integration of the Association’s lobbying efforts with the Grassroots Ambassadors program, which seeks to link superintendents directly with their federal legislators.
Helland will serve as an expert resource for the association as it continues to address various current legislative and regulatory issues, such as implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Rule, which expands federal regulation of surface waters protected under the Clean Water Act. He will also continue to help organize and enhance the annual National Golf Day event.
“We are fortunate to have someone with Bob’s background and expertise join the association to add important member value and help take our advocacy efforts to the next level,” said Rhett Evans, GCSAA chief executive officer. “It is critical that we have a consistent presence on Capitol Hill and in Washington, D.C., to directly promote the benefits of the golf industry, which annually delivers $69 billion in economic impact and more than 2 million jobs.”
The list of government issues impacting the golf industry and the golf course management profession is growing, and GCSAA is increasing its advocacy efforts as part of a long-term strategic plan for government affairs. The plan calls for additional resources, along with a more impactful and consistent voice in the nation’s capital and all states. It is a focus that many policymakers welcome.
“The single most effective way for me to be educated about the impact of what we are doing in their industry and their line of work is to sit down with me for 10 minutes,” said South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy. “Come tell me eyeball to eyeball. That’s the single best way to do it.”
“If we are not speaking on our own behalf, who is?” asks Kevin Sunderman, GCSAA grassroots ambassador and golf course superintendent at Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club in St. Petersburg, Fla., whose golf course would be affected by the EPA’s expanded Clean Water Rule. “We have to tell people the good story about golf and about our profession – and the fact that we are educated stewards of the environment.”
Helland, who holds an undergraduate degree from Trenton State College (now known as The College of New Jersey) and a juris doctor degree from Widener University (Pa.) School of Law, has established relationships with Congressional and agency officials that will be valuable to the golf industry. He worked in the U.S. Senate on transportation and environmental policy issues for former New Jersey Sen. and Gov. Jon Corzine (2001-2005). Since then, he has spent a decade as a federal lobbyist representing trade association, manufacturing, municipal and non-profit clients. He has authored more than 100 articles on legal, regulatory and legislative issues, including several on behalf of GCSAA.