A sit-down session where citizens can converse with their legislators and address issues they feel passionate about over a cup of coffee will take place this weekend in Dickinson.
Hosted by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with The Dickinson Press, Coffee with Your Legislators will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 6, at City Hall and it’s a free event and opportunity for citizens to talk with their legislators face to face.
Doors will open at 1 p.m., and there will be a half hour where attendees can get their coffee and mingle with the legislators. At 1:30 p.m., City Commissioner John Odermann will act as the moderator for the event and will ask the elected officials some questions. Afterwards, Odermann will turn it over to the public where they can ask questions that they feel are of concern.
“I see it as a great relationship building opportunity. I think that’s something that’s a role the chamber plays really well in terms of being a facilitator for staff-relationship type stuff that is so necessary (for) our community to be successful,” Odermann said.
Legislators confirmed to attend the event include Sen. Rich Wardner and Rep. Mike Lefor, both from District 37.
“The thing that’s really cool about North Dakota is how accessible our elected officials really are. That’s something very special about this state and you don’t see in other areas. You can run into Mike Lefor or Rich Wardner on the street… or the three from District 36 and they’re going to visit with you and talk with you. They might not always agree with you, (but) they’re going to talk to you,” Odermann said. “And that’s something that I think is really cool about western North Dakota and North Dakota in general. I think an event like this really highlights it.”
Odermann said that with events like this, people will always be surprised as to what issues are discussed.
“... Rich (Wardner), in particular, being the Senate majority leader, he’s really got a pulse of the things that are going to be the hot-button things, and we’ve got him right in our backyard to help update on everything that’s going on in Bismarck,” Odermann said. “So I’m excited. I think the big topics are the CTE, Legacy Fund dollars and what we’re looking at in terms of oil-impact stuff and how that’s going to impact moving forward for western North Dakota.”
The Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce is an “apolitical organization that allows for people to connect with legislators in a more intimate setting, Odermann added.
“It’s a great opportunity to be engaged and be an educated member of the electorate… The more engaged you are, the more right you have to complain,” Odermann said, chuckling. “If you’re educated and you know what you’re talking about, then you have an ability to speak intelligently to the issues and I think the more intelligent you can speak to the issues, the more convincing you can be in the event (where) you do find yourself in a situation where you’re able to talk to a legislator or try to persuade them to see things your way.”
Odermann added, “I really encourage anybody to come because even if there’s nothing that directly impacts you now, there might be somewhere down the line in the future… And I think that’s the really great thing about an event like this. Relationships have to start somewhere and what better place than over a cup of coffee.”