Meet Chris Senske, the 2023 Advocate of the Year - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Meet Chris Senske, the 2023 Advocate of the Year

Photo: NALP/Philippe Nobile Photography

Chris Senske, acquisitions ambassador for Senske Services, based in Kennewick, Washington, got involved in advocacy early in his career as he grew up in a family that was pretty involved in the political process and he wanted to protect the family business from laws and regulations that could interfere with their success.

“If you don’t advocate for your business and family, who will?” Senske says.

Senske was announced as 2023’s Advocate of the Year during ELEVATE in Dallas, Texas. This award recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond to represent and defend the interests of the industry.

“It is an honor to have the hours and hours invested, the long trips to the state capitol to testify and the results we have achieved in advocacy recognized,” he says. “I hope every member of this association will take it upon themselves to find out how to get involved in advocacy and achieve great results for our industry. I know there is someone out there that will be deserving of this award in the future for the great work they do.”

He says there hasn’t been a year yet where some topic hasn’t required advocacy for the industry. He is engaged in the Advocacy Contact Team, which serves as a boots-on-the-ground team for state and local level issues, as well as Voices for Healthy Green Spaces.

One of his notable efforts in advocacy was in 1992 when he wrote the bill for Washington state during the right-to-know push that provided for posting and notification of lawn and pest treatments at homes, schools, businesses, multifamily properties and roadside treatments for vegetation management.

This bill included a controversial pesticide-sensitive registry. The legacy PLCAA government affairs department was against this registry, but Senske understood that without it they would be back to square one the following year.

“As it worked out the rules promulgated out of that law have stood the test of time for 30 years and we have not been back in front of the legislature for related issues in all that time,” Senske says.

Senske also regularly contacts federal representatives when there are topics of concern. He recently met with his congressman’s staff to discuss sponsoring a bill that offers tax credits for the purchase of electric landscape equipment.

“Don’t be afraid to get in front of your representatives and regulators to let them know how they are affecting your business and family,” Senske says. “They are real people and as the saying goes, ‘put their pants on one leg at a time’ just like you. There are plenty of resources to learn more about how to get involved. There is a whole section on the NALP website on advocacy, including resources and issues for today.”

He notes that there are so many rules, regulations and laws from all disciplines in business that the government is essentially your partner in business.

“Think about each and every part of your business and how the government is involved whether local, state or federal,” he says. “If you don’t tell your partner how their actions are now or in the future affecting your business, they will never know how they are oppressing your ability to operate.”

City and county councils determine if your business is zoned properly for your use. State and local laws dictate how much you must pay your team members.

“They regulate your vehicles and drivers,” Senske says. “The state determines how much you have to pay for unemployment tax and in some states like Washington and Ohio, what your worker’s comp rates will be. They regulate your advertising, contracts and telephone sales processes.”

Senske stresses it is important to be active when there are regulatory hearings.

“When your Department of Labor is proposing rules on heat work regulations or pesticide regulations or business regs, you need to have your voice heard,” he says. “The regulatory process in most states, setting the rules for how the law will be implemented, is your last chance to be heard before you will have to work under the rules. You can make a difference at the rule-making point with most regulators as they generally have better – not great, but better – understanding of the business you are in.”

He is passionate about protecting the ability to legally use pest management tools according to the label when and where needed, labor rules, and electric equipment mandates and bans.

“The real issue is some of the mandates are unreasonable in their timing and scope, not taking into consideration the ability of manufacturers to meet the regulatory demand, not to mention user demand,” Senske says.

Senske encourages others to get involved in advocating for their business, as the other side will continue to work against your interests.

“Depending on someone else to protect your business is not a wise path in the long run,” he says. “What are you going to tell your family when you are struggling to make payroll or pay bills if the cost of regulations becomes burdensome?”

This article was published in the November/December issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.