Cape May County Freeholders E. Marie Hayes, right, and Jeffrey Pierson, in blue sweater, talk with some of the residents who showed up for the first Coffee Chat.

The first in a planned series of Coffee Chats with the Cape May County Freeholders was held at the Marmora Dunkin Donuts on Dec. 10.

The purpose of the chats is to bring residents together in a casual setting to discuss county issues with the freeholders. There was no agenda and those attending were able to bring up concerns and ideas that impact them as residents of Cape May County.

Freeholders Jeffrey Pierson and E. Marie Hayes hosted the first Coffee Chat. Close to a dozen residents from Upper Township, Ocean City and Sea Isle City stopped by to meet the freeholders and talk about what was on their minds. The conversation ranged from signage to flooding, dredging and problems navigating the waterways to Code Blue. 

 “The chats were designed to be informal gatherings that allow for residents to have meaningful conversation and speak to freeholders about local issues,” Pierson said in a press release. “I’m encouraged by the participation and exchange of ideas and the variety of subjects discussed.”

The next Coffee Chat is expected to take place in Ocean City in January, with more scheduled throughout the county.

Pierson said he hopes more local residents will join the series of chats planned for 2019 “to continue the dialogue” with the freeholders.

“It’s important for us to hear from the residents and understand their concerns,” he said. “It helps us do a better job.”

Elected officials from Upper Township attended the Coffee Chat in Marmora with Pierson and Hayes. Deputy Mayor Ed Barr and Committeeman John Coggins discussed issues related to county roads and projects that affect the township.

“For our first chat, I thought the topics were timely and gave us an opportunity to talk to residents on a one-on-one basis,” Hayes said. “Many citizens are not able to attend meetings or are uncomfortable talking about issues at a public meeting. Others don’t know where to go to get help.”

Hayes noted that sitting down with a cup of coffee makes the conversations easier and more personal.

“As freeholders, we want to talk directly with our residents and help make their lives better,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a matter of giving them the information to get assistance for a problem or making a phone call to the appropriate departments, and we are happy to help any way we can.”

The Dunkin Donuts on Route 9 in Marmora hosted the event and offered coffee and donuts to the participants. As more Coffee Chats with the freeholders are scheduled throughout the county, they will be listed on the county government website and advertised in local papers. The public is invited to attend all of the chats.