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Few show to meet, greet legislators

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Hornback, Montell talk issues, hear personal stories at library

By Lisa King

A steady, chilly rain kept many people indoors Saturday, and a few dozen people who visited the Shelby County Public Library that morning drifted over to talk to Shelby County’s legislators who were on hand just for that purpose.

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"This is Friends of the Library Week, so we have this meet-and-greet as an opportunity to highlight the Friends and the needs of the library throughout the whole state," said Pam Federspiel, the facility’s executive director.

She said the event has been staged on a weekend evening but this year was moved to a Saturday in hopes of drawing a larger crowd.

"Of course, the rain hurt us today," she said, glancing at the small crowd of about a half dozen people sprinkled throughout the small lounge just inside the library’s main entrance, a few of them talking to state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) and state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville),

some just helping themselves to coffee and donuts and some just relaxing with a newspaper.

Despite the low attendance, Montell said those who did participate were interested in a variety of topics.

"We talked about the upcoming budget cycle and whether we would be able to get a budget this time-and we’re very confident that we will," Montell said. "We’ve talked about a couple of different pieces of legislation that we expected to see, and they gave some opinions on that. Oh, and we also talked about the [federal government partial] shutdown.

"I’m glad that we were able to work out a resolution on the debt ceiling and that there was no default that took place. But to me it was a little disappointing that we went through that whole shutdown period, and there was so much fear about defaulting on our debt. But we also need to look at why we’re in debt as much as we are, and we didn’t do that.

“At the end of the day, we pretty much agreed on the status quo, to let things go on the way that we have been used to, and that’s disappointing, because I do think there are fundamental issues that our federal government needs to look at as far as the rate of spending."

Hornback said people discussed some political topics with him, but many of them just wanted to talk about their situations.

"They haven’t been asking about a lot of issues, just telling personal stories," he said.  "Also some people who have moved into the community recently just wanted to meet us. They didn’t have issues; they just wanted to tell us how much they enjoyed Shelby County and how they like the aesthetics here."

J.D. Stucker was one of those who talked to Hornback about personal matters.

"We talked about Clay Village – he went to school there and his dad graduated from there," Stucker said. "I’ve lived in Clay Village all my life, and I'm writing a book about its history."

Montell said people also talked about the evolution of technology in education and expressed frustration that some parents could not provide the means for their children to take advantage of technology fully.

"It's a challenge because all students don’t have access at home," he said.

Montell said he was pleased that the handful of people that turned out for the 2-hour event included a few young people.

"There were two young men, students at Collins [High School], who came out to meet us and to ask if they could arrange to spend some time with us in Frankfort," Montell said. "That was exciting to me."

Hornback said that he thought it was a little unusual that no one mentioned anything about the new health insurance benefits exchange.

"No one said anything about insurance or really anything specific,” he said. "I think that if we could do one [meet and greet] in March, we would have more questions like that, because people have more issues specific to the [legislative] session then. A lot of the issues for the session aren't out there yet."

This event is held at least once each year by the Friends of the Library, said Mary Lynn Collins, a member of that organization, who attended the meet and greet.

"It's a way for us to bring attention to the library and also to give people a chance to talk about topics they are concerned about," she said.

Federspiel agreed.

"Also, in a lot of counties, people don’t know their legislators, so this gives them to chance to meet them," she said.

"But it’s not like that here. You know, you see them at the gas station and the grocery store, and they always take time to talk to people. We’re lucky to still have the same ones after the redistricting."