Guest post by Mike Shue.
Mike Shue is a recently retired rural carrier.
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Becoming a National Delegate Part II
So you've been elected as a national delegate, something you've been looking forward to and trying to achieve for some time now. What I'm going to talk about in this article is a lot about the financial end of this journey.
First, it will be very helpful to find out what kind of compensation and how much your particular state provides. The easiest way to ask someone who has been a national delegate in the past. The information should also be available in your state constitution. In my state, we are given round-trip mileage at the IRS rate via the quickest ground route plus 4 days per-diem at $100 per night. This is because the convention is in session for 4 days officially. Other states give a flat amount. Chances are you will end up paying some out of pocket. But don't look at it as a money-making or losing proposition. You're there to represent your state on the national level. Sometimes, when you have to travel cross-country you may end up a little to the good. Again, it depends on how much your state provides. And remember that delegate checks are given out after the convention is over, so you'll probably have to come up with the money upfront.
Next, to fly, drive, or use other conveyance. This is in large part a personal choice. How much time do your have in relation to where that year's convention is? Per the national constitution, the national convention rotates between 5 areas of the country, so driving this year may not be practical next year.
The conventions for the next few years are as follows:
2016- Nashville, TN
2017- National Harbor, MD (near DC)
2018- Grand Rapids, MI
2019- Grapevine, TX (near Dallas/Ft. Worth)
2020- Spokane, WA
In 2021, it will return to the SAC area- Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, etc. Personally, I always preferred to drive. I am not a big fan of flying and I always enjoyed seeing the sights on the road. But if you have to travel cross country, it may not be practical in your case. Plus there is the finances to consider. If you are flying, it is just the cost of your round-trip plane ticket plus a few other incidentials. If you drive, you have to consider the cost of rooms on the road if it will be a couple of day's drive, plus vehicle expenses and food. If flying, start looking around at the different airline's prices, or check websites like Hotwire, Orbitz, or Expedia. You occasionally can find some good deals. Some even have travel packages that allow you to get air fare plus a room at a good price. Last year going to Reno, I got round-trip air fare plus a room at the convention hotel for under $900. And I was flying from east coast to west coast. The trick is to spend some time surfing the internet and find a good deal. I have always liked to get to the convention on Sunday afternoon even though it doesn't offically start until Tuesday morning. This allowed me to find the hotel, check in, get unpacked and settled in, and if time permits, get registered at the convention and scope things out, find my way around. If registration has already closed Sunday evening, I would have all day Monday to check things out.
Where to stay once you arrive. The room block at the Gaylord Opryland is now open. I would suggest you do so fairly quickly to be sure you can lock in the convention rate. Should you not be elected, change your mind, etc. you can always cancel, usually up to a week before your reservation starts. That being said, there is no requirement you stay at the convention hotel. And here's where it gets tricky and you have decisions to make. Did you fly and will you be renting a car, an added cost? Are there other hotels reasonably close? If so, is the convention site within walking distance? If you have to drive to the convention hotel from an outlying hotel, you will have to pay for parking. Are you rooming with someone? If so, the convention hotel may be cost-effective. What about meals? Convention hotel restaurants tend to be pricey. But what other options are available off convention property? Are there McDonald's, Wendy's, or Arby's close by? Or even sit-down eateries. Does a near-by hotel provide a breakfast bar? This is just a few things to consider. Also, going to websites like Mapquest or Google maps will help you find out some of the answers to your questions. But nothing replaces the knowledge of a native son or daughter. Chances are someone on one of these rural FB groups lives somewhat close to where the convention is being held.
Going back to having a roomie for a minute. You may be lucky enough to be good friends with another delegate and the two of you can room together. But suppose you don't know anyone going? Ask around at your state convention if anyone going needs a roomie. You may be able to find someone in the same boat as you. Remember in most cases, your state pays each delegate basically the same amount regardless of who they go with. Sometimes married couples are both carriers and are both delegates, so they each may get the same delegate allowance.
There is no prohibition from your family going along. Your spouse can join in the auxiliary program and if you have children between 6-20, there is the junior program for them. And a lot of families use the convention trip as a vacation taking in that area of the country either before or after the convention.
Finally, each state has their own requirements as to what your responsibilities are as a paid delegate. Mine requires you to attend 90% of all meetings unless excused by the delegate-at-large. This includes both morning and afternoon sessions Tuesday-Friday plus the caucuses Thursday night. Other states may have different requirements. Again, check with your state secretary.
While this doesn't cover everything, I hope it gives you some insight as to what it takes to be a delegate, especially on the financial end. In my final article, I will give you insight on what actually transpires at the convention.