By Valerie Baldowski
A local lawmaker recently met with constituents to have up-close and personal conversations over barbecue.
State Rep. Steve Davis (R-McDonough) attended a "Meet and Greet" event hosted by McDonough attorney, Richard Schrade. The event was held Tuesday at Schrade's law office, at 146 Atlanta St.
Davis said the function was a way for him to talk with the public in a less pressured setting.
"We get in these modes when we do town hall meetings and forums, and we end up speaking at people," he said. "We get in a political mode."
Foremost on people's minds, he said, are the economy and health care, but those topics took a back seat during the barbecue.
"It wasn't so much an issue-based night, but rather a chance to fellowship," Davis said. "We chit-chatted."
The topic of conversation, according to Schrade, was decidedly non-political.
"Mainly what was talked about was barbecue and Georgia football," he said.
Davis said he holds community barbecues periodically, which are open to anyone. In addition to allowing him to meet new people, he said each event gives him a chance to congratulate his staff for the work they do on his behalf.
"It gives me an opportunity to thank my supporters and volunteers and keep the momentum," he said.
He said such meetings with the public, in a non-political setting, provide opportunities to connect with voters on a personal level, and to get the message out that he is accessible.
"It gets them to relax a little bit," Davis said. "I really think people need to get to know you as a person. This was just a get-together to get to know me. People appreciate that."
Schrade said he chose to host the event to show his loyalty to Davis, who will run for re-election next year.
According to the State Ethics Commission, as of Thursday, Davis and Jim Nichols were the only candidates for state House District 109 listed as having signed a declaration of intent to accept campaign contributions.
Schrade, who provided financial help to Davis during Davis' last campaign in 2008, said the barbecue gave the lawmaker a chance to prepare for the 2010 campaign season.
"The campaign season seems to start earlier and earlier," Schrade said. "One of the main things that seems to make a difference is to start before your opponents."
In the past, Schrade added, political campaigns usually began in April or May, but lately, campaign seasons have been gaining momentum as early as January.
Also attending the function was Chris Perkins, deputy outreach coordinator for the Center For An Educated Georgia, and Charles Mobley, an investment advisor with ING Financial Partners.
"I was out there to support him [Davis], because he's a good, independent voice for Henry County," said Perkins, who was Davis' aide during the 2006, 2007 and 2009 legislative sessions. "Steve is a straight-shooting kind of guy."
As a legislator, Davis makes an effort to avail himself to everyone, said Perkins.
"He answers his own e-mail," he said. "That surprises a lot of people."
Mobley, who has an office in the same building as Schrade, said the event was a way for Davis to reach out to the community.
"It allowed people to come and talk," said Mobley. "You don't have to look far to find him [Davis]. Steve doesn't hide."
Davis was not using the barbecue as a tool to campaign or promote his platform, Mobley continued, but rather as a social event.
"He means well," Mobley said. "That's what the event was all about."