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Amid calls for a town hall, Walorski meets privately with constituents

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -

Rep. Jackie Walorski has not held a town hall since 2013, but she met privately with concerned constituents Monday in an effort to reach out.

“I’m probably more frustrated now than I was before talking to her,” said Clare Roach, a mother from Granger who met with Walorski.

Instead of demonstrations outside her Mishawaka office, small groups of people filed in to meet with Walorski in closed-door meetings Monday.

“She was polite, but I was very frustrated because I heard her get asked specifically – invited, in fact – to a town hall meeting,” said Roach. “And I just feel like that’s part of her job, to listen to her constituents on their terms, not just on her terms.”

“This doesn’t substitute,” said Debra Javeline, a professor at Notre Dame who lives in South Bend and met with Walorski. “The idea that I get, somehow, exclusive access to the country club for, you know, 30 minutes of Jackie Walorski’s time does not substitute for her giving broad access so that she can listen to all her constituents.”

There was a sharp contrast in Walorski’s take on it all, which she offered to the media halfway through her Monday meetings.

“I’m thrilled,” she said. “And I’m thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to sit down and actually talk – listen to folks, but also have dialogue.”

Walorski said her Mishawaka office on the corner of Lincolnway East and Church Street holds office hours each day.

She said she supports an open door policy, but she resisted committing to holding a town hall.

“I really love the idea of being able to sit down and actually have conversations with folks, to be able to drive down past maybe just one or two issues,” said Walorski. “I think other environments are somewhat difficult.”

Some who met with her on Monday said it took months to set up the 30-minute meetings they were invited to – and some said, afterward, that their meeting times were cut short because of overbooking.

Most people who met with Walorski said they still want her to participate in a town hall – one has even been scheduled for April 9 at the Century Center in South Bend that Walorski has been invited to.

But at her office Monday, she would not commit to going.

‘Is there a specific reason you won’t attend that town hall or another town hall that may be set up?’ asked ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz. ‘Is there a specific reason holding you back?’

“You know, no, there really isn’t,” said Walorski. “Other then, the open dialogue that we’ve had has been very productive. And I think that we’re going to continue with an open door…a lot of issues come up when you have a chance to have real dialogue.”

Walorski did say safety was not a concern holding her back from participating in a town hall – since there have been some contentious ones across the country recently.

But there was a Mishawaka police officer inside the lobby of her office all day on Monday.

Walorski’s spokesman said they were following recommendations by the U.S. Capitol Police in case there were demonstrations that got out of hand.

One other concern voiced by those who met with Walorski is that weekday office hours held during regular business hours are not conducive for people who may not be able to call off from work or hire a babysitter.

Many people said that’s why the town hall on Sunday, April 9 would be a more appropriate time to meet. 

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