As Mountain View mayor, community engagement is one of my highest priorities. I believe that the needs of the community should form the backbone of the work at Town Hall.
A year ago, when I first took office, I shared my plan to hold what I called, “Community Office Hours.” Each month, on the third Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., I place a sign in my yard, tidy up my home office, make a pot of coffee, and invite residents to join me. When the weather is nice, we sit on the patio. When it’s chilly out, we sit in my home office to catch up. Meeting with community members in this relaxed way has provided me with many valuable insights about what can improve our town. But, more than anything, it’s helped me form friendships with those I serve.
My hope is that residents will tell me what town issues impact their quality of life or worry them, and what ideas they have for the future. But sometimes, what happens is I get to know their kids, I learn what people do for work, and what kinds of backgrounds they had before they arrived in Mountain View. I get a glimpse into the diversity of people who live here. And I come away with a true sense of appreciation.
Many community members know their neighbors and help each other out when difficulties arise. When family members die, people bring soup, send flowers, prayers, and letters of support. We babysit each other’s children and cheer each other’s gardening efforts on. We notice when someone has a new pet, and we learn their names. As a close-knit community, we enjoy a sense of safety, security, and belonging that not everyone enjoys.
One of the ways to express appreciation for our special community is to commit to participating and giving back. We all have things to contribute, and no “one size fits all.” The wide array of ways in which community members can participate is part of what’s uniquely special about our town.
Participating on Town Council or on a Council committee is a formal way to give back. No experience is necessary but commitment, integrity, and patience are all critical qualifications.
Helping with community events is another fun way to contribute. For example, our Spring Fling will be Saturday, April 8. If there are residents who would enjoy helping with food or children’s activities, they should not hesitate to reach out!
Some residents have recently been helping disabled or elderly neighbors with snow shoveling, and I’m very grateful to these volunteers. (Please let me know if you’d like to help in this way!)
Lastly, staying informed is one of the most fundamental ways to participate in your community. We share a lot of information here in the Neighborhood Gazette, on social media and the town website.
I hope to meet more people this coming year at my Community Office Hours. But if those days and times are not good, I’m happy to take a walk or get a cup of coffee with any resident who would like to chat. We have a special thing here in Mountain View, and it takes all of us to keep it that way.
Emilie Mitcham is the mayor of Mountain View.