Mayor’s Chats make a connection

At the June Mayor’s Chat at Rani’s Furniture and Antiques, manager Mary Bowen (standing) talks to the round table of people in the store. Attending that day were (clockwise from Bowen) Mayor Jean Keogh, Mary’s husband Larry, Gladys Zahratka, Marietta Kukacka, City Councilor Bill Wencl, and Shirley Rynda. (Wade Young Photo)

If you want to formally address the Montgomery City Council, you have to attend the monthly meetings, walk to the podium, and state your name and address, while on camera that is videotaping the open meeting.

An easier way to address Mayor Jean Keogh is to attend the monthly Mayor’s Chats, held in various businesses in Montgomery.

Gladys Zahratka was one of several people who attended the June Mayor’s Chat at Rani’s Furniture and Antiques on First Street. She had read the news notice in the Montgomery Messenger and made it a point to get to the meeting. She has been attending the chats for several years when her schedule allows. She said she enjoys coming to the meetings and talking to Keogh. She describes the chats as an informal way to talk about city-related things.

“They (chats) are so interesting. Jean is very informal and tells us a lot of what’s going on,” Zahratka said.

Keogh says the informalness of the chats is what really allows people to open up to her.

“I feel that Montgomery residents are more comfortable in an informal setting at different places, other than the official meeting site - City Hall,” Keogh said. “When you talk to people on a one-to-one basis, they tend to be more open and willing to share their concerns and ideas.”

She added that the chats are very beneficial to the business that hosts her because it brings people into the store that they may not have visited before. It also gives the business owners and staff the chance to tell city leaders about concerns or issues.

“I feel that this is a great opportunity to open up the communication with our residents and business owners to let them know we represent them and they can come to us at any time.”

Keogh said chat topics have been limitless. She has  discussed snow removal, blight, street repairs, pot holes, parking issues, and things discussed at city council meetings. She said she has gotten some complaints, but not a lot, mostly general questions and curiosity.

The mayor said she listens to everything people tell her. She takes notes, researches complaints and directs the issue to the appropriate city department for a response.

“I try to respond to the person, which I make every attempt to do in a timely manner,” she said.

Keogh said people don’t have to wait for the Mayor’s Chat on the first Saturday of the month.

“People can always stop me when they see me or call me at 507-364-5685, and I will return their calls,” she said.

As for Zahratka, she said she will continue attending the Chats because she likes listening to the Mayor.

“She’s smart and she’s very interesting to listen to,” she said.

 

Next Mayor’s Chat

The next Chat with the Mayor will be held Saturday, July 13, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at CJ’s Czech Imports.