Karen McLaughlin on Saturday morning rubbed elbows with her kind of people - Manteca residents.
McLaughlin marked her third week as Manteca’s city manager by joining Police Chief Dave Bricker on his periodical Coffee with the Chief chats. This time it was to visit with those residents and out-of-town guests that wanted to share concerns and observations or ask questions about the city and their neighborhoods.
“It’s critical that people have a face to face with city staff,” noted McLaughlin.
McLaughlin plans to participate in future Saturday Coffee with the Chief events at Manteca restaurants. She added that it is important that city leaders make themselves accessible to citizens outside of just the context of formal meetings or when they have a specific concern that may take them to city hall.
At first McLaughlin said she didn’t feel comfortable interrupting people having breakfast. But then after realizing that Bricker typically waits until after they order and before their food arrives her jitters disappeared.
One table of people in Manteca for a soccer tournament cracked that it must be an election year in Manteca.
When they found out that they were talking to the police chief and city manager who are not elected officials, McLaughlin said they were impressed.
“One of them said they wished their city leaders would do the same thing,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said she intends to use whatever venues she can to make personal contact with residents whether it is through the Coffee with the Chief or events such as National Night Out.
Bricker said that the two hours he has spent on Saturdays in restaurants talking with citizens was invaluable.
“There hasn’t been a time that I haven’t come back from a coffee that I didn’t get valuable information on a suspected drug house, a gang problem, and such that was good enough that I could give to my guys to eventually act upon,” Bricker said.
The police chief noted not all information leads immediately to results as officers have to build cases. But he has yet not to get a valuable lead.
“People will say that they didn’t want to bother the police because they know we are busy but the information they provide is invaluable to catching the bad guys,” Bricker said.