If you are a retiree, hopefully, you saw the brief article on the Ambassador Program in the California State Retiree or on the CSEA Retirees Inc. website. If you aren’t a retiree, contact CalPERS at the e-mail below and ask them if you can attend as well. You may need to take some time off from work, but it could be a good investment of your time. Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”
According to Scott Yates, newly hired to run the Office of Stakeholder Relations, the CalPERS Ambassador Program has been built in line with the successful Ambassador Program run by the Public Employee’s System of Nevada (NVPERS). Mr. Yates and his staff studied how NVPERS’ Ambassador program educates and empowers their volunteer corps of Ambassadors to communicate the facts about public pensions in Nevada. They are trained to communicate facts with their friends and neighbors, engage community and business leaders, and to work with the editorial boards of community newspapers. Volunteers are not asked to lobby on behalf of NVPERS and they receive no pay for their work. NVPERS reports the Ambassador Program has been a win-win for staff and members. The program recruited 200 members the first year and has a goal of adding 200 new Ambassadors each year. I would think we could do better, considering how many more members CalPERS has.
CalPERS will kick-off our Ambassador Program with an initial training session at CalPERS on May 26 from 1:30 – 4 p.m. in Lincoln Plaza North, Room 1170. All CalPERS retirees are invited to attend. The draft agenda includes opening remarks from a senior CalPERS executive, an overview of benefit funding, a look at CalPERS resources for finding facts about the pension debate, and best practices retirees can use when communicating in their communities. You’ll get a certificate-of-completion, an opportunity to network with other interested retirees and with CalPERS staff. Most of all, you might just be a little better prepared to address all that resentment that has been focused on our pensions.
Staff will want to get your email address, so that you can receive future communications and training from the Office of Stakeholder Relations. In addition, they are planning a monthly newsletter to recap recent news of interest to retirees and to offer communications tips. They’ll also design templates you can use to respond to breaking news, with e-mails or letters to the editor. Depending on the initial interest in the program, CalPERS may conduct similar sessions in regional offices and initiate a recurring forum to recognize CalPERS Ambassadors, facilitate networking, and share lessons learned.
Please RSVP your attendance by sending an e-mail to CalPERS_Ambassadors@calpers.ca.gov. Tracking the attendance will ensure they have an appropriate facility reserved for the kick-off. Retirees can also call Mr. Yates directly with any questions at (916) 795-9101.