Meet the Policy Makers | 50 State Policy Project

Meet the Policy Makers

The policy makers interviewed here represent efforts encountered through ITN affiliates across the country. We offer their stories and interviews to help other policy makers and their constituents learn from their experience. We will update the site as new legislation and new stories emerge.

Secretary E. Douglas Beach

E. Douglas Beach
Chief Executive Officer
Area Agency on Aging of Central Florida
Former Secretary of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs

On the economic future-
“State and federal budgets are going to continue to be tight.”

On the risks of not addressing senior transportation needs-
“If we don’t get seniors into the community we’re creating a huge liability, a Medicare liability as well as a Medicaid liability.”

Listen to Douglas Beach’ Policy Interview

Jonathan Harris

Greg Olsen
Acting Director for the New York State Office for the Aging

On learning of ITN-
“I immediately thought it was a great solution to one of the top three issues that older adults have faced for as long as they have been keeping track.”

On opportunities for the future-
“I always think that there are opportunities, especially when administrations change, to bring some good ideas to the table. I also think that in this environment, in any environment, that government ought to be looking at ways to help bring in private resources and really foster, I think, what the Governor here calls entrepreneurial government, which I certainly am a staunch supporter of. That’s how you use state government to leverage additional resources and partners to make a big impact in any particular program or policy area and do it in partnership. I always think that there are opportunities to look at things that are good ideas that maybe at the time fell short for whatever particular reason but, a good idea is a good idea and they always have life to them.”

Listen to Greg Olsen’ Policy Interview

Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris
Executive Director, Connecticut Democratic Party
Former State Senator and Deputy Treasurer

On his interest in senior transportation-
“It goes back years ago, with people in my family, there was a need for that personally. But as a policy maker, when I was the Mayor of West Hartford, we were facing a real bad budget crunch in the wake of 9/11, that 2001/2002 recession. We were reorganizing our government, cutting, and senior transportation, senior issues, keeping the aging population in their homes, active, in the community, both economically and volunteering, was a goal.”

“Following the ITN model, we wanted to figure out a way that the government could provide a catalyst in the form of some seed money, relaxing or changing certain laws that might be barriers to certain transportation systems. We took it from that approach, that we wanted government to be a part of the solution, but we were not trying to create another government program. So, we really wanted to give incentives to the private sector to be able to fill this gap in service.”

On the role of government-
“The role of government has to be re-thought to still be active and still play a positive role and have an influence on policy, on service provision, but not necessarily do it the way it was done through the New Deal or the Great Society when it is a government program, a top-down type of model, but bottom-up and unleashing those private resources, energy, minds, volunteers, a chance for people to make money, whatever it might be. We really have to start thinking about other ways to provide services.”

Listen to Jonathan Harris’ Policy Interview

Mayor Michael Brennan

Mayor Michael Brennan
Portland, Maine
Former State Senator

On the advantages of public policy that takes this approach-
“A huge part of this is culture. We, as a country, as a state, as a community of Portland, we tend to think of transportation in terms of individual automobile ownership, and that’s the primary form of transportation. What’s offered through ITN and some of the other initiatives and alternatives is to really think about how we provide transportation resources to older people and not have them continue to rely on individual automobiles. So, I think it has profound meaning for public policy because so much of our public policy in this country is built around highways, cars, individual transportation and what this does is move us more to how do we pool resources, how do we take advantage of volunteer time, how do we take advantage of cars that are donated, how do we also ask people to supplement some of the costs of offering the service in a community so that you expand transportation options without typically relying on building more roads and focusing on individual automobile ownership.”

“The other thing about this is it ends up bringing other resources to bear on the issue of creating transportation alternatives and I think one of the unique features of ITN is that it has volunteer drivers. In almost every other form of public transportation, we do rely on some type of city subsidy, state subsidy, and on a professional transportation system to provide that service, and this really, in a very unique way, makes use of volunteer resources to provide a public good.”

Listen to Michael Brennan’ Policy Interview

Representative Joseph Lyons

Representative Joseph Lyons
Illinois State Legislature

On the Illinois law to protect volunteer drivers from increases in their insurance rates-
“It’s good public policy. It’s common sense to not try to harm somebody trying to do something, a charitable action, not trying to do something that anybody’s making money off of.”

On working with a lobbyist from the insurance industry-
“One individual in particular, Kevin Martin, is one of the very intellectual insurance lobbyists that represent the Independent Insurance people. Kevin is a very good friend of mine. We’ve had a good relationship in the 16 years I’ve been down in Springfield. Kevin, in all honesty, realized that, you know, this is not the big issue that some insurance companies were making. So having a good relationship with a great lobbyist on this, who represented this industry very well, was looking out to protect their interests, at the same time understood the bigger issues here and was very helpful in getting the insurance companies to stand down on trying to take this to a higher level of premium on a volunteer driver. So, I just wanted it to be on the record and make sure it is known, having a good relationship with lobbyists in the industries doesn’t hurt the effort or cause.”

Listen to Representative Joseph Lyons’ Policy Interview

Susan Westrom

Representative Susan Westrom
Kentucky State Legislature

On becoming interested in sustainable senior transportation-
“Well, I was very fortunate in that I had a constituent within my own district who somehow had heard your message and was determined to get a program such as this up and running in Lexington, Kentucky. She quickly found that there were some barriers in the transportation regulations and realized that legislation would have to be drafted and passed in order for her to get her non-profit in Lexington. So, she contacted me and asked if we could meet.”

“She had never been involved in policy making before and had no idea, that this sounds very simple to draft a piece of legislation and get it passed, but it is not simple in anyway. In fact, I told her that if you draft a piece of legislation and get it passed within three years, you’re doing a great job. Little did I know that this constituent happened to be one of the greatest lawyers for seniors that I’ve ever met since I’ve been in office, which is now 14 years. She was incredible. With her help, I got the legislation drafted and it had the magic word, and that is no tax subsidy, no taxpayer dollars. And, since I sit on the Health and Welfare Committee, it breezed through that committee because of the substance of the bill, the authenticity of the bill, and then went over to the Senate, and I’ll be darned, but it did pass the Senate.”

Listen to Representative Susan Westrom’ Policy Interview