Coffee Talk: Mayor, City Manager Try Casual Setting

Mayor Marina Khubesrian (left) and City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe (second from left) meet with residents last week at Berry Opera. Photo by Sally Kilby

In an event billed as a way for “members of the community to drop in, ask questions and discuss city issues,” some 20 residents attended a coffee with Mayor Marina Khubesrian and City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe last Thursday at Berry Opera coffee shop and bakery.

No official presentation was made. Instead, Khubesrian and DeWolfe sat at a small four-person table at the front of the eatery.

“It’s an opportunity for us to meet residents and have informal dialogue,” Khubesrian said.

Tamara Binns, the city manager’s executive assistant, oversaw the process of people taking turns at the table. Approximately every five minutes, members of the public rotated into and out of the two seats.

Police Chief Joe Ortiz stood near the rear of Berry Opera. He engaged in individual dialogue with several members of the public.

Usually, residents engage with the mayor and city manager in the more formal setting of a City Council meeting. This was Khubesrian’s attempt to create a more casual format. The reviews were mixed.

“I would have preferred to have people express their concerns or opinions [in a group] and receive an answer from both the mayor and the city manager,” resident Dollie Chapman said after the meeting. “[This is] so all could share in the information.”

“The majority of the people that were there,” she said, “at least those that I was sitting around, were saying essentially the same thing.”

Resident Michelle McCauley, manager of Camille DePedrini dress shop nearby, said she, too, was there to hear others’ concerns. She did, however, participate in one of the conversations that focused on homelessness.

But Khubesrian liked the addition of this informal setting to the public dialogue.

“[We are able to] answer questions, get to know them, and help people connect the dots because there have been a lot of questions about what’s happening and why,” the mayor said.