Around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I got a call in my office.
"Hi, Drew. This is Senator Blunt's office."
"Hello, how can I help you," I said.
"The senator will be visiting Boonville on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at Sell's Carpet. Do you think you'll be attending?"
I already knew I would be attending. I got an email from the Boonville Chamber of Commerce the day before telling me of the event. A visit from a U.S. Senator isn't something you normally pass up, even if it is tipped off to you just the day before.
So I told the man on the phone that I'd be there. And, after a little schedule finagling, I was. It's my job.
Now, if you've ever attended a meet-and-greet with a member of any elected office, you notice a bit of a pattern. The offical walks in, everyone stands up, they shake hands with darn near everyone, everyone sits down, lots of talking, they shake more hands and then they head on out. Clean and simple, no one hurt. And this event was no different.
One pattern that was more disturbing about this event (and these events as a whole) was the demographics. Admittedly, I'm a younger guy, but these roundtable meetups are very frequently - and I use the term with the utmost admiration - old. They're old. Short of Mr. Blunt's field representative and Megan, our reporter, I was the youngest person in the room by at least 20 years.
Sure, it's my job to be there and report for Boonville, but it's understandable why it's lacking diversity. Everyone else has to work. It's 11:30 a.m. on a Wednesday.
I guess I don't get these type of events. They serve well for headlines, a fine front-page picture and that ringing feeling of satisfaction you get when you encounter someone famous. But this is Sen. Blunt's event, not his constituents, and that's pretty evident from the get-go. He craftily weaved in and out of questions, diverting questions about waterfowl to farming, from unfunded mandates to EPA "czars."
You can shake your elected official's hand on their time, but when it's good for you, not so much. In these times, is it likely your boss is letting you off work to check in with your senator?
It's easy for Blunt to swing from Lake Ozark to Moberly in 10 hours, with a seven-town itinerary. That's his job, just as mine is to report. Many employers aren't likely to be flexible enough to let you duck out for an hour to participate in democracy. I suppose Mr. Blunt prefers to work on his own schedule rather than everyone else's.
Page 2 of 2 - Mr. Blunt, if I can suggest, perhaps cater to folks with working schedules so a more diverse crowd can come see you. Cater to the eager, inquisitive attendees who ask simple questions with simple answers. (It's more than OK to say "I don't know, but I'll get back to you.")
Cater to those who voted for you, and make them feel like they didn't squander their time at a carpet shop on the edge of town. Cater to those that didn't by suggesting a more intimate atmosphere that encourages conversation and discourages pontification and soapboxing. Last, cater to the press by letting us know that you're coming to town more than 24 hours in advance.
It's your job, and we're your boss.