Affiliate Spotlight: Courtney Barnard, Florida Apartment Association
Courtney Barnard is the Government Affairs Director for the Florida Apartment Association (FAA). Prior to joining FAA a year and a half ago, she worked as a Political Representative with the Florida Realtors Association. NAA caught up with Courtney to discuss the Florida legislative session, her favorite political movie and the resources that have been developed to help FAAs members with their advocacy work.
NAA: What were your state legislators focusing on this year?
CB: The Florida legislature was focused on cutting a billion dollars from the state budget in 2016 by eliminating the corporate rent tax. This did not pass. Additionally, some recurring issues came up in 2016 including medical marijuana, Everglades restoration, and education funding.
NAA: What were FAAs state legislative priorities this year?
CB: FAA was primarily focused on creating an exemption to allow Certified Apartment Maintenance Technicians (CAMTs) to perform minor repairs on HVAC and AC units. Florida law requires an HVAC license to do any repair work. CAMTs and apartment workers faced criminal penalties for performing any repairs. We were able to pass this exemption unanimously!
NAA: What races are you watching this year?
CB: Florida had all of its state senate seats redrawn, so all 40 senators will be up for re-election in November. We are working hard to make sure friends of the industry are able to win in 2016. Additionally, FAA has been working with NAA to meet and screen each candidate running for Marco Rubios Senate seat.
NAA: How did you get involved in politics?
CB: Politics have always been a part of my family. I attended lots of political rallies, heated debates were encouraged, and my parents taught me the importance of voting and political giving. Naturally, I was a very politically involved from a young age. I ran for student body vice president in elementary school and I participated in several letter writing campaigns in college. After graduation I worked for Grassroots Campaigns and then transitioned as an intern for a political party. I have since joined the association world of government affairs and I love the mix of lobbying, grassroots organizing, and fundraising.
NAA: What is the most challenging aspect of your job and what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
CB: These two aspects are intertwined. Its incredibly rewarding to get members involved in the legislative process and to let them see the impact they can have as industry experts. We have so much power as an industry and I love it when our members harness this by attending events such as the FAA annual Legislative Conference and donate to APAC (the Florida counterpart of NAAPAC).
Conversely, it is disheartening to see so many people who are apathetic to the political process. It is hard to meet members who simply dont want to be involved and think that by shying away from politics that anything will get better. We have to be involved in politics. If you dont have a seat at the table you will be on the menu.
NAA: What are the top three issues that association members consistently throw at you?
CB: I often hear concerns about protected classes, service and emotional support animals, and about the legalization of marijuana. We have been able to keep state law from changing on these issues; however, similar issues are spreading like wildfire across the U.S.
NAA: What are your typical day-to-day responsibilities as your associations government affairs director?
CB: I wish I had the glamourous life of a lobbyist that is portrayed in the media (lots of fancy clothes and swanky dinners with politicians). In reality, my duties include a lot of reading and analyzing legislation, and driving back and forth from Orlando to Tallahassee to meet with key legislators and to testify in committee meetings. When Florida isnt in session I am working on PAC fundraising, giving legislative updates to our affiliates, and producing materials for upcoming meetings and fundraisers.
NAA: What is your current hot project?
CB: I am spearheading a new fundraiser for the FAA annual conference in October. We are chartering a luxury yacht for an evening cruise to raise funds for APAC. I am working hard to make sure its am amazing event.
NAA: What resources have you developed to help your members with their advocacy work?
CB: Making sure each FAA member understands our legislative priorities is key to our advocacy success. In order to educate and inform our members about our priorities I utilize a variety of different tactics. Before our legislative conference, I send out YouTube videos which clearly explain each of our priorities and how they could potentially impact our industry. I also send out weekly emails updates during legislative session to update our members on our legislative progress. All of these resources are shared on social media and on the FAA website.
Additionally, FAA has created envelope-sized pocket folders which contain inserts that highlight facts about our industry and each of our legislative priorities. Each insert highlights the issue background and bill sponsors, how the issue impacts the multifamily industry, and what we want the legislature to do about the bill. Everyone who attends our legislative conference receives a folder, as do all members of the Florida legislature. We also share these throughout the year at affiliate tradeshows and events. By utilizing multiple forms of media, we are able to engage a wider audience and have more success with our legislative priorities.
NAA: What is your favorite political movie?
CB: Charlie Wilsons War. I wrote my Masters thesis on post-war development programs in Afghanistan.
NAA: What is your favorite non-political movie?
NAA: Who do you follow on Twitter?
CB: Trevor Noah from the Daily Show, The Pope, and Malala (among others).
NAA: What do you do during your down time?
CB: I love kayaking and spending time outdoors.
NAA: Where did you go to school?
CB: Scripps College (BA); University of Central Florida (MA); The University of Washington (Certificate in Public Policy).
NAA: What is your favorite restaurant?
CB: I love Berns steakhouse in Tampa. It is like stepping back into the Mad Men era.
NAA: Who is your favorite sports team?
CB: Orlando City Soccer. Go Lions!
NAA: Any special awards or skill worth mentioning?
CB: I am bilingual in Spanish and produced Spanish language campaign materials in my former role.
NAA: What is on your Bucket list?
CB: To fly in a hot air balloon.
NAA: What is the best advice you've ever received?
CB: Dont ever be afraid to go above and beyond the work you are required to do.