DENVER (CBS4)– At the Natural Grocers in Lakewood, next to the dairy aisle, shoppers got a free sample of what Rep. Ed Perlmutter calls “Government in the Grocery.” Perlmutter is a Democrat representing Congressional District 7.
“The theory behind being we’re going to the people’s place, the grocery store… to make it more accessible for folks,” said Perlmutter, who has held the one-on-one constituent meetings since he took office 12 years ago.
CBS4 was there this month when he marked his 100th Government in the Grocery. He reflected on some of the more memorable ones over the years, like the Government in the Grocery he held in 2009 in Brighton. Hundreds of tea partiers he says showed-up to protest Obamacare.
“There are times where they just don’t think you’re doing the right thing and they’re going to give you a piece of their mind and those are humbling I can tell you that.”
But it wasn’t until 2011 that security became a concern after former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot at a similar event in Arizona. Perlmutter said only Natural Grocers and Safeway now allow him in the stores and he always has a police presence.
Still, even as other lawmakers stopped holding similar events, Perlmutter continued.
“You got to do this. This is part of being a representative is to really hear what’s on people’s minds.”
People like Raul Fernandez who said Government in the Grocery changed his life. Perlmutter removed an error in the FBI database that was preventing the veteran from getting a job. Fernandez came to Perlmutter’s 100th Government in the Grocery to thank him and make a confession.
“I’m a registered Republican, just so you know,” he said as Perlmutter laughed. “Regardless of my political affiliation, I’m voting for you.”
Perlmutter says the constituents he’s met and stories he’s heard over the years have also inspired several pieces of legislation and changed his life too by making him a better representative, “Because your connected and you can’t hide. I mean, someone is this far away from you and you’ve got to contend with what’s on their mind. It’s a good way to be grounded in the community.”