The Rev. Bernard Schmalzried, 68, of Warren, said he's written a half dozen letters to various officials, including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Gov. Ted Strickland, but is disappointed with the results.
"The letter I received didn't have anything to do with what I wrote to him about," Schmalzried recalled of the response from Ryan's office that he received nearly two months later.
He's never received a response from Strickland - not even a form letter.
The Rev. Bernard Schmalzried looks over a letter in his office in Warren. When he did not get a response to a letter written to Gov. Ted Strickland, Schmalzried began to wonder what happens to letters written to elected officials.
"It's a little frustrating," he said. "I realize that they're busy peopleI just kind of wonder if it does any good to write to them."
Schmalzried said he'd like to know what happens to letters received by our nation's elected officials.
Allison Kolodziej, deputy press secretary for Gov. Ted Strickland, said letters received by his office are first sent through an x-ray. Then, each piece of correspondence is coded with the name of a constituency office staff member or agency where it will be transferred. She said they strive to either compose an answer or forward the letter to an agency by the end of the following day.
"He is almost always in the loop when his staff is crafting letters and his approval is often sought," she explained.
But not all letters merit a response.
"Because of the high volume of mail we receive each day, our office is only able to respond to letters and e-mails that ask specific questions or request direct responses," Kolodziej said.
The governor's office is required by the State Archives to save the correspondence for two months, and issues are tracked in their constituent affairs office.
Gov. Strickland doesn't answer the letters personally, but Kolodziej said he has penned notes in congratulation or condolence.
State Rep. Tom Letson, however, often replies to hand-written letters himself. Even if a response is written by one of his staff members, he sees the final product before it is sent out, according to his senior legislative aide, Shannon Fergus, 24.
"He really appreciates people communicating with him," she said.
Letson's office stores each piece of correspondence in a database, where they also keep track of the number of people who support or oppose certain issues. They receive approximately four or five e-mails and one hand-written letter per day, and Fergus said they are all considered.
When Letson received various constituent letters regarding concerns about library funding, Fergus said he held a town meeting to address them. He also met with Severstal Steel officials after concerns were raised about the plant potentially closing.
Not all of the mail he receives involves political issues, however - he received a letter last year from a boy in elementary school asking him who his favorite president was.
Letson wrote back himself, thanking him for his letter. He named Theodore Roosevelt his favorite president and even provided a thorough explanation, closing the letter with: "I hope that the information I have provided is helpful for your report. It is a great honor to help you. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance. Again, good luck!"
"They kept writing back and forth," Fergus recalled. "It was really cute."
Letters written to government officials become part of the public record, Fergus said, and Letson's office encourages people to write to him: "Hearing from the public really helps us he likes getting (letters) and responding to them."