On September 15, 2023, Congressman Gus Bilirakis was declared the 2023 winner for the Constituent Communications award within the House Republican Conference. This annual competition sees members of Congress working to increase engagement from their constituents. This is done by “diversifying their modes of official communication,” which means communicating via text, radio, physical mail, email, social media, tele-townhalls, and e-surveys. Congressman Bilirakis received feedback on topics including education, hurricane damage, Constitutional protections, environmental protection, healthcare, and inflation, among others. The responses are then used to help guide his work in our nation’s capital.
As the competition was Caucus-wide, it spanned all 222 Republican members of the House. The state representative has now been awarded this honor in back-to-back years and has received a Democracy Award for communication and service to constituents from the Congressional Management Foundation.
“I am humbled to once again receive this prestigious honor,” Congressman Bilirakis said. “I believe that the best ideas come from the people I serve, and it is important to establish effective lines of communication to ensure I have a good pulse on the issues that matter most to my constituents.”
When reached for further clarification on the award and the work he put in, his office stated that the Congressman regularly surveys his constituents on various issues with one question per survey sent out to 157,281 Hernando County residents. 43 surveys have been distributed during this term, and all survey questions are first approved by the Bipartisan Franking Commission.
A few of the litany of questions posed to constituents are: “Do you believe our country is headed in a positive direction? Do you believe more should be done to protect Florida’s waterways? Do you believe more should be done to secure the border? Are you concerned about our rising national debt? Is your household still experiencing the impact of inflation?”
For those constituents aged 50 and older, Congressman Bilirakis mailed physical mailers asking them which topics were most important to them. Over 10,000 of the individuals in this age bracket returned their survey, with the top response being the controlling of inflation. The second answer involved the securing of the border. The Congressman’s office highlighted his co-sponsorship of the REIN Act to “rein in” Executive spending and HR 2, the Secure the Border Act, as examples of how the congressman has acted upon feedback received from his constituents with legislative action.
Bilirakis’ office also sent out 100,000 text messages asking his constituents questions such as if they had experienced damages due to Hurricane Idalia and if they supported investigating allegations of misconduct by the Biden family. Every month, the congressman hosts monthly tele-town halls in which 100,000 constituents are called. Some of these town halls are more general in scope, while others are more specific, with the months of June and August focusing on small businesses and hurricane recovery, respectively. The congressman and officials from FEMA, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and Florida’s Department of Emergency Preparedness provided feedback to people’s questions regarding these natural disasters.
The state representative works to create an “open-door policy” by gathering feedback and has helped over 2,100 Hernando County residents with their constituent cases through his outreach team. Though the following list is not exhaustive, his office detailed a variety of other ways Congressman Bilirakis communicated with constituents and organizations over the last year:
The Congressman holds office hours in each of his offices every month, and any constituent from Hernando County who has requested an appointment with him has been accommodated during one of his open office hour time slots.
He toured the border with Sheriff Nienhuis and has had various discussions regarding how Hernando County is being impacted by fentanyl. This growing concern has been highlighted during committee hearings in DC as well.
The congressman has also hosted multiple “Coffee with Your Congressman” listening sessions across Hernando County to receive constituent concerns and input.
Every veteran in Hernando County was sent a physical mailer invite to the upcoming Veterans Resource Fair on October 28. This provides veterans with an opportunity to connect with available resources in the community.
The Congressman conducts two monthly radio interviews with a talk radio station in Hernando County to share info about his work. The state representative also holds public service announcements about constituent casework that regularly runs on those stations.
Congressman Bilirakis visited many small businesses throughout the county to listen to their concerns and has spoken a number of times at the Chamber to gather feedback from local businesses.
“Everyone communicates, but effective communication requires connection, and that can only happen when everyone is actively engaged,” the congressman said. “Listening is the most important aspect of communication, and I am continuously working to improve and modernize processes to better understand my constituents’ needs so that I can provide targeted resources to help.”