I live in the small city (pop. 60,000) of West Allis, Wisconsin. In this town we have a mayor by the name of Dan Devine. He is the man standing who is ironically facing away from the camera. Those of you who follow this blog with regularity may recall mention of him this past July in a post titled Secret to a Healthy Community. In which the mayor led a neighborhood walk to encourage the community to engage in a healthier lifestyle. To me it was a great example of a person who leads by example.
The picture above is from an event I attended this morning called ‘Coffee with the mayor’. The premise is a simple one, the mayor chooses a local business and meets informally with anyone who shows up. Not only does this offer a unique chance to connect with the community for those who may be too intimidated to attend meetings at city hall, but also brings a lot of business to a local establishment. In this case the venue was Urban Joe Café and Bar. Although their questionable decision to have minimum staff on such a busy morning, the young lady who was working named Tina, did a marvelous job keeping everyone happy.
Through the course of this gathering, the mayor informed us on the status of ongoing projects as well as new developments. As you can imagine the people attending ranged in age from young to old. They also ranged from being cheerful and excited to jaded and generally full of complaints. What impressed me most was that Mayor Devine not only subjected himself to some conversation that bordered on unpleasant, but responded to everyone in a cheerful and encouraging fashion.
When the scheduled hour was up the mayor still gave time for those in attendance. He was also joined by an alderman and the fire chief.
The reason for me sharing the story of this gathering is to show what is possible when leaders genuinely care for the people and seek to engage them from many different angles. We have a city website, newsletter and formal meetings of course, but this informal gathering really gave the citizens a chance to feel included in what is happening in their city. Not to mention our good friends at Urban Joe Café & Bar were introduced to several more customers.
It is my sincere hope that leaders in other communities take this example and bring it to their cities and towns as well. In addition, I hope citizens take advantage of such opportunities to have their voices heard and become more engaged in the community. I find myself feeling very grateful that I live in a city with leaders who care and are willing to work to make a difference.