One of the simplest methods of communication with the top executive in your state is anything but. This week I tried to find the email address for my governor, Mike Parson, but all I got was a lousy web form on the state website. Yes, I could fill out the form, but I wanted to track our correspondence (wishful thinking, I know) through my email client. Alas, it was not meant to be.
This turned into A Project. Turns out many states aren’t so transparent about their email addresses. Surely they must use email to conduct state business. But finding out these actual addresses well, that is another matter.
Yes, almost every governor’s office phone number is easily discoverable from numerous online sources. And part of me wanted to call each one and ask what the appropriate email address is, just to hear the staffer sputter or put me on hold. You can go to this document, maintained by the National Governors Association, which lists both phone numbers and postal addresses for all of them, including territories. There is a separate document that links to various social media addresses. But email? Nope. You can see the data here for the first few lines:
(NGA, you might want to spend the minutes it might take to add another column to this document and become useful to those of us who want to use email.)
A quick check of several nearby states shows Missouri isn’t alone in relegating constituent queries to a web form: the state websites of Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa and Maryland also just have these forms on their governors’ pages, with no mention of their chief executive’s actual email address. That’s annoying. I tried to decode the underlying HTML of the forms, but I wasn’t smart enough to suss it out.
This reminds me of a story that I wrote many years ago, at the dawn of the internet era. I was searching for computer tech support information, and back then we didn’t have Google and most vendors barely had FTP servers, let alone websites that had this information. But that was the 1990s. Those that had email responders didn’t really staff them for timely answers either. That article btw is notable in how many companies have gone to dust (Lycos? Compuserve? Memories.)
There is a source of governor emails, and it comes from an odd place: Rick Halperin, a history professor at Southern Methodist University. Not wanting to link to an outdated document, I emailed him and asked if he keeps the document up to date. Within minutes he replied (thanks Rick! Governor staffers, please note.), saying thanks for reminding him and yes, link away. So there you have it. To paraphrase that infamous cartoon, on the internet, everyone knows you are a dog if you work for a state government.
Now I am under no expectations that my governor — or any other — is actually going to read his or her emails. Or that anyone will actually respond with anything other than a form letter. But if you want to comment on this piece, I will take the time to write back.