Columbia city manager's coffee sessions prove popular

Sunday, August 21, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 1:35 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 21, 2011

COLUMBIA — If you want to have coffee with City Manager Mike Matthes, you’ll have to wait until September.

Matthes has coffee at 10-minute intervals with up to six Columbia residents from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Fridays. The sessions provide an opportunity for people to express concerns, educate the city manager about a topic or just introduce themselves, said Carol Rhodes, assistant to the city manager.

Matthes is booked through Aug. 26.

Although he initially was surprised by the popularity of the coffee sessions, Matthes said it was easy to figure out why people were interested.

“It’s how involved people in Columbia are in government that explains it,” he said.

What happens after a conversation depends on what was discussed. If someone is coming to provide information, there is no follow-up. Some issues that are presented, such as speeding, are checked into routinely. And occasionally, Matthes will need someone to supply him with more data before he can take action, he said.

Wally Pfeffer, insurance agent for Mutual of Omaha, used his coffee session to give Matthes tips on how to be a successful Columbia leader. Pfeffer suggested Matthes make connections with community members and leaders and then stay in touch with them.

“If he does those kinds of outreach things, that will save him a lot of trouble,” Pfeffer said.

He also told Matthes that, to keep up with the buzz in Columbia, he should have breakfast at the Broadway Diner, lunch at Booches and dinner at Murry's. Pfeffer and Matthes had breakfast at the diner the following Monday. 

Jenifer Flink, executive director of Boone County Historical Society Museum, spent time with Matthes to explain the resources the museum has to offer.

“We’re kind of the best-kept secret in town,” Flink said.

She said she was especially excited to find out that Matthes was a history major, and she made an appointment for him to tour the museum in September.

Christina McCullen, a board member of Spay, Neuter and Protect, went to speak with Matthes about trapping, neutering and returning feral cats. Matthes informed her about the $5,000 provision in the proposed city budget to improve feral cat sterilization, and he invited her to come to meetings, she said.

For Matthes, that was the most surprising conversation to date.

“I’ve never seen a feral cat, so that was new for me,” he said.

Other discussion topics have included funding for repairs to sewers, commercial kitchen ventilation, back-in parking on Ash Street and snow plowing.

To register for Friday coffee, visit the program’s website by 5 p.m. the Wednesday before or call 874-7214. The next opening is Sept. 2, and sessions will continue until interest wanes, Matthes said.

“I think it’s a great way to one, meet each other, but two, I really see a city as a corporation that’s owned by shareholders,” he said. “Shareholders are people who live here. You can come meet your CEO.”

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