Meet the Mayor forums give community chance to voice concerns, make suggestions


Carbondale City Hall (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Tierra Carpenter

On the first Tuesday of every month, Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry can be found meeting with his constituents in various spots around the city.

The mayor described the events as open forums.

“Anybody can walk up and ask any question they want to ask, and we do our best to answer it,” Henry said.


The forums, titled “Meet the Mayor,” have helped Henry find out information from various demographics that he said he may not have been able to reach otherwise.

“I can’t know what’s going in every corner of the city,” Henry said. “We’ve had students from SIU come. We’ve had high school students come. … We just find out what’s on their mind and what we can do for them and what we want to have happen here.”

Gary Williams, the city manager, said the meetings were started to help the mayor and his team get more involved in the community. The next one will be held at from 8 to 9 a.m. on Dec. 5 at Mary Lou’s Grill.

“We’ve been really focused on ways we can enhance communication in Carbondale,” Williams said. “This was just one more thing that was an opportunity for both of us to be in the community, and answer questions, connect with residents. They’re great venues to get new ideas and to also really hear from people what their concerns are.”

Henry said one thing residents commonly ask about or suggest is bringing more entertainment events to Carbondale. He said they are working on that now by bringing a fall festival to the city in 2018.

“We hope to incorporate some of the things already going on in Carbondale, but bring some music out onto our Washington street venue,” Henry said.

Students and community members consistently ask for events to be held on campus too, Henry said.


“We used to have all of these nice events on campus, and we just don’t have them anymore,” Henry said.

SIU’s administration is already on board with making that happen, the mayor said.

“They think it will be good for the campus to get not just folks from Carbondale, but folks from all over southern Illinois back on the SIU campus and see what a beautiful campus we have here,” Henry said.

Free wifi, already an aspect of the city’s plan to revitalize the downtown area, is another thing frequently brought up at forums, he said.

“That’s one thing students talked about, that they like coffee shops and places to sit, socialize and have free wifi, so to have that in walking distance of the campus is very important,” Henry said.

He said attendance at events varies, but he doesn’t gauge their success based on that.

“Sometimes it’s the quality of information that you get,” Henry said. “It may just be one or two people that bring a brand new idea or some enlightenment that I wasn’t aware of previously.”

Darren Berger, 48, from Carbondale, said he attends the forums to learn more about current events.    

Berger said he’s interested in talking about the Carbondale real estate market and gaining more sales in the area.

“From what I understand there’s a lot of housing stock on the market which leaves a huge opportunity to move people to Carbondale and show them what we have to offer,” Berger said

Another forum-goer, Patricia Mayberry, 71, from Carbondale, said she comes to learn how she can help the city, especially where education is concerned.

“This is me learning firsthand, rather than through other folks, other organizations and everything,” Mayberry said. “I think that there’s a lot more than can be done as far as getting kids interested in school.’

Henry said he plans on continuing the forums throughout next year, but he may change the time.

“We’ve always done it at breakfast, and it may be that mid-morning, lunch or something like that may work better,” he said.

Henry said the new schedule should be made public around the end of December or early January.

Tierra Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] or @tierramc_.

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