Mayoral outreach? For Delmont's Sanchez, it's in the bag
Gill Sanchez packs a plastic bag of groceries, careful to make sure the juice isn't crushing the eggs. He loads half a dozen bags into the grocery cart, but none are going home with the Delmont mayor.
After months of hoping residents would visit his borough office with their concerns and questions, Sanchez bagged the idea of officer hours and decided to bag groceries. Every Thursday, Delmont's mayor bags groceries at the Athena Drive Shop ‘n Save as a way to reach out to residents.
“Here, everyone comes shopping. People aren't intimidated to talk to you,” Sanchez said. “There's more people through here than sitting in my office with no one talking to me.”
Sanchez began the outreach last month and said it's been a success. He's heard from residents who want to know when a pothole would be patched and others who are happy with the way the borough is running. He even heard from one Murrysville woman who said she'd like to help get the borough's community days running again.
“I've heard about what a good job the road crew is doing and how well Apple ‘n Arts went,” Sanchez said. “People are realizing that we're doing more with less.”
It helps that Councilwoman Alyce Urban works at the store as a cashier, he said. Urban said while many of the store's customers aren't from Delmont — the grocery attracts shoppers from Export, Slickville, Salem and other nearby towns — Sanchez has been well received by all customers.
Obreda Fyock practically lives in Delmont — her home is one street out of the borough, living in Salem — and said she loves that Sanchez takes the time to reach out to his residents by volunteering at the grocery store.
“It's a great idea,” Fyock said. “He's very friendly.”
Linda Kyle of Delmont had no idea her mayor would be bagging her groceries when she went to the store last week. Kyle said she didn't think Sanchez would want residents holding up the line to complain about sewer lines or potholes but was delighted to hear that type of intereaction was his reason for bagging.
Sanchez said he knows he won't solve all the borough's problems by bagging groceries, but he hopes that getting out into the community and letting residents know that he's willing to listen will help solve some smaller issues.
“Even if I'm just making small talk with some residents, that's fine,” Sanchez said. “Most people are creatures of habit, and they come by here for lunch. With any luck, we can help them out if they need it.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or firstname.lastname@example.org.