WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The League of Women Voters hosted an up-close and personal event this weekend. Elected officials and voters talked face-to-face in Wilmington’s Northeast Library Assembly Room. County Commissioners, NC House Representatives, and even the Mayor were in the building to answer questions directly.
“Well that personal touch makes a huge difference,” said Democratic Representative Susi Hamilton. “I think when you lay hands on people and you touch them, shake their hand, look into their eyes, it makes a difference. They feel more connected to what is happening. They realize you are human, they realize that they are human, and there are people out there who have real concerns and want to be heard. They are committed enough to come out on a Saturday morning to reach out to us.”
The League organized the event with one goal in mind…to make elected officials as available to the public as possible.
“It gives us the opportunity to go into more depth about a specific issue or something that they may have a concern about,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.
The public did not seem shy about sharing these concerns.
“Lots of concerns over cuts to public education,” said Hamilton.
Wilmington City Council member Margaret Haynes added that she had heard concerns about education, also. Someone talked to her at length about not allowing guns in the public schools; A belief which she shares, but explained the city has little control over.
“Of course traffic is always a big issue in the community, and of course people want more roads, more traffic enforcement, more bridges…stuff of that nature,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.
Elected officials and constituents alike agree that discussing issues in person can be a lot more beneficial than responding through emails. Some think the most productive part of being face-to-face is the small talk.
“No question the face to face is what it is,” says Hayes. “It is a great opportunity to build relationships.”
Republican Representative Rick Catlin even caught himself catching up with a stranger.
“Well we just started exchanging backgrounds,” said Catlin. “He and I both worked our way through college. We are both engineers. Sometimes it is just nice to chat with people.”