WETHERSFIELD - Some elected officials like to come across as the kind that you can grab a beer with.
Paul Montinieri isn’t going for that exactly, but close enough--the Wethersfield mayor has announced that starting in the second half of February, town residents will have the opportunity to discuss issues of interest to them over a cup of coffee.
The idea of the pilot program, called “Coffee with the Mayor,” is to engage members of the public in an intimate environment outside the arena of public comments during Town Council meetings, Montinieri said.
“I think there’s a bit of an appetite [during Council meetings] to share opinions,” Montinieri said, “but it can be intimidating coming to Council and knowing you’re on TV. We’re going to try and make it unintimidating.”
The sessions will start on Feb. 20, at the 225 Silas Deane Highway Dunkin Donuts. On March 14, he’ll be at Aroma Bistro, 227 Main St.; Panera Bread at 1129 Silas Deane Highway on March 27; Dunkin Donuts at 1030 Silas Deane Highway on April 4; and Dunkin Donuts at 416 Silas Deane Highway on April 17. All meetings run from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and residents do not have to make arrangements in advance to participate--they can simply show up.
“If we don’t get a good response to this, we’ll think about an alternative,” Montinieri said. “But I hope people take advantage of this.”
There used to be mayor’s hours--a weekly open forum for town residents to express concerns--at Town Hall, but Montinieri said they were not well-attended.
“I don’t ever remember a resident coming by,” he said. “I don’t know if they were inconvenient, or [residents] just don’t have time.”
Resident involvement has been a concern for Montinieri since the election, which yielded a 29 percent voter turnout.
“[The program] is certainly related, and it’s related to the concept of making our elected officials more approachable and have residents weigh-in,” Montinieri said.