Photo illustration by Lexi Coon.
In starting with more community outreach, Mayor Stewart Welch has created a mayor’s Facebook page to share events, happenings and updates with the community.
When Stewart Welch was first entering office as the mayor of Mountain Brook, one of his big ideas was to reach the younger generations of Mountain Brook — in addition to all other residents — and get them involved in their community.
And after a few months in office, his ideas have only grown.
“It’s the first thing I thought I could do,” Welch said of his idea to create a mayor’s Facebook account.
After seeing the success that friend and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson had through his account, he thought that would be a good place to start.
“I said, ‘OK, no need to reinvent the wheel. I’ll start with his idea,” Welch said.
With the help of local business Uptick Marketing, Welch created his first Facebook profile, Stewart Welch III, to share his mayoral happenings with the community.
So far, his profile includes upcoming community events, links to helpful websites, a selfie with the Leadership Mountain Brook group, and photos of himself and Chief of Police Ted Cook with Alabama head football coach Nick Saban. But he still has plans for the page.
Eventually, Welch said, he wants to use his profile to make residents aware of what is happening in their community, be it events or local sales, and have the city’s website do the same.
“The first thing is to get the Facebook page up and running,” he said. “And then I said I want some help just looking at the city website.”
Welch admitted the city website, at mtnbrook.org, isn’t the easiest to navigate.
“I want to make it Apple easy,” he said.
The website includes standard city happenings and contact information for different members of the local government, but Welch wants to make it even more resident friendly. He said that generally, if someone visits the website, they are looking for something or someone in particular. He wants to introduce city officials to the public by making their contact information and a short biography more readily available.
“I’d like to make it really prominent,” he said. “I want to be able to see who the people are.”
Welch also wants to incorporate local Mountain Brook businesses on the website by helping them promote their sales and specials in a central location.
“The thing is that we have so many unique shops and restaurants here across all of our shopping centers,” he said. “And what I want to do is to … connect those businesses to the residents.”
He said he’s hoping to connect local students, too.
Leadership Mountain Brook
Leadership Mountain Brook works closely with the city’s Chamber of Commerce for a program that delves into civic government and business, and now members are working with Welch to help create the Mayor’s Youth Citizenship Award.
“My vision is that it would be like a class, and at the end of it there would be a certificate,” he said. Through the program, Welch said selected students would spend time with different departments within the city government to really get a feel for what each person does.
After meeting with members of Leadership Mountain Brook on Feb. 13, he tentatively chose to work grades eigh through ten to avoid competition with Leadership Mountain Brook. Welch said his hope would be to include students from all Mountain Brook schools, not just the city schools, and while an official plan is still in development, Welch and Leadership Mountain Brook discussed adding a volunteering element and program meetings outside of school hours.
“I think it [the program] would be a great exercise, and some people might come out of that and have some interest in the city government down the road,” he said. Welch has even put in motion a plan to get the youngest residents and their families interested in their local government.
Welch drafted this idea while he was at Brookwood Forest Elementary when they were honoring Veterans Day and children and families were all around him. He called it his “million-dollar idea.”
As he meets more and more young Mountain Brook residents, he plans on talking with them and saying, “You’re a million-dollar person,” and handing them a $1 million bill with his signature on the back.
“I’m meeting people all the time, and they have kids with them,” he said. “They can take it [the bill] to City Hall … and get candy for it.” Recently, Welch decided the mayoral candy of Mountain Brook will be Starbursts, “because we expect all of our Mountain Brook kids to become stars,” he said.
By doing this, he said it gets the families out to City Hall, and it introduces the kids to local officials and the city government. He’s hoping he can tie in certain fun yet educational components, such as an interactive city-wide scavenger hunt or collector’s cards about Mountain Brook.
Welch added that as of right now, he hasn’t put the entirety of the project together, but he does have one more idea to encourage more community involvement.
Circle of 100
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I want to help,’ or ‘What can I do to help?’” Welch said. With their help, he wants to encourage greater event attendance and support for the Mountain Brook community through his idea, the Circle of 100.
“The idea was to find 100 people like me: adults, citizens who care about the city and are willing to be involved,” he said.
If there is an event happening, Welch said he would send an email to his list of 100 people, and they would forward that email or share a post on social media so their list of friends is aware of the event, too.
“If everybody just got two or three of their friends to come, then all of a sudden you take something that’s well attended, and you make it really well attended,” he said.
But much like the purpose of his Facebook account or the website, all of his ideas come down to an ease of communication throughout the city across all fronts: Students, parents and government officials all have a role.
“If you’re in real estate, it’s ‘location, location, location,’” he said. “My mantra is communication, communication, communication.”