Mayor Marion Barry set aside four hours yesterday to tap the brain power of his bureaucratic grass roots in private meetings with individual secretaries, clerks, sanitation supervisors and other usually annoymous persons in the city's 47,000-person work force.
By the time the 20 meetings of 10 minutes each were over, Barry had heard numerous suggestions on how to improve city government and its services as well as some firsthand complaints about working conditions and city policy as seen from the bottom up.
Dorothy Grady, a solid waste control clerk for the D.C. Department of Enviromental Services, said she was "nervous at first" when she walked unto the mayor's spacious office on the top floor of the District Building.
"You don't get to see the mayor every day," said Grady. She put her hand on the stomach of her flowerprint dress as if to calm the butterflies stirred by her recollection of that moment. "He said, 'relax,' and so I did," Grady said, blushing with a smile.
Soon, self-confidence had clerk Grady telling Mayor Barry about the bad working conditions in her office, the need for more training programs in city government and the need for a system to give citizens information without them having to make 10 telephone calls first, she said.
Grady, who used to be a coworker of Barry's wife Effi when Mrs. Barry was an inspector for the Environmental Services Department, said she left the meeting with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of Marion Barry, the man.
"I think he's a down-to-earth person," she said. "I don't think he's a miracle worker, but I think if he's made aware of some of the deficiencies, he will do his best to correct them."
Optimism, respect for the trappings of power and a wide variety of concerns - ranging from snow removal, shorter gas lines, the elimination of architectual barriers for the handicapped and at least one item "too personal" to be discussed with a reporter - were the order of the day at Barry's meetings yesterday.
"This is my effort to have an opendoor policy and listen to all points of view," Barry told reporters assembled in his office for the ceremonial-like beginning of the four-hour experiment.
It was, the mayor said, an attempt to solicit "individual views instead of mass views" from city workers and to allow employes to speak in a forum "outside of the bureaucratic chain."
And there were plenty of suggestions.
Douglass McPherson, a supervisor of street and alley cleaning in Anacostia for the Department of Evironmental Serives, told the mayor he could shorten gas lines in the city if he designated one group of stations to sell unleaded gas and another group to sell leaded gas.
Sandra Datcher, a policy planner in the Department of Human Resources, told the mayor from her wheelchair about her concern over the city's failure to fully remove architectural barriers for the handicapped.
Earlier this month the mayor's office sent out a memo inviting all city employers to sign up if they wanted to talk to Barry about "your suggestions and concerns for improving city services."
There was 125 persons who signed up and 20 were chosen for the meetings, largely on a first-come-first-served basis, according to Barry sides.
Barry said none of yesterday's meetings would deal with individual personnel complaints. Those would be discussed with acting personnel director Jose Gutierrez without the mayor attending because, as mayor, Barry has the final decision on personnel grievance matters.
Five aides to the mayor, including city administator Elijah B. Rogers and two of his assistants,took turns sitting in on the meetings with the mayor. The more than 100 persons not lucky enough to have an individual audience with Barry yesterday will get appointments to talk with a top aide to the mayor in the next 10 days. CAPTION: Picture, Mayor Marion Barry talks with Enviroment Service clerk. Dorothy Grady in one of 20 private meetings yesterday with city employes, By Joel Richardson - The Washington Post.