Name: Erin Stewart
Location: New Britain, Connecticut
“I guess the things around my office are a good reflection of me.” Mayor Stewart’s downtown New Britain office is not the kind of stuffy, spartan-esque room of a dried-up politician. One look around and you’ll find: colorful elephants (with their trunks always pointed up), black and yellow bumble bees decorating every corner, a throw pillow made from an old New Britain High School band uniform, a small, subtle shelf of awards, and photos and paintings of New Britain from when her father held this office. In the corner behind Mayor Stewart’s desk sits a fully blooming purple plant from the beginning of her first term, three years ago.
City pins: You can look around. I’ve got a lot of interesting stuff in here. Or we can just go through my suitcase.
She drops a large, tan purse onto her desk with a laugh.
I carry city pins with me.
I end up in a lot of sitch-ee-ations where I always see people doing something really good, like a good deed on behalf of the city, or people going out of their way to be a good representative of the city. I keep pins with me so if I run into somebody doing something really nice I give them a city pin and I just say, “Thank you for being a good ambassador of the city of New Britain. Your small action makes people look at us better.”
Hand Sanitizer: This is my life. Hand sanitizer. Because I shake so many people’s hands and I’m constantly out. I’m always talking to people, always interacting with people, and if I do not sanitize my hands after every time, it’s like. . .
She laughs a loud, friendly sound accompanied by a big smile.
I usually go to Bath and Body Works, and I’ll do the “pick 5 for 10 bucks,” and just grab a whole bunch. I always keep that in my bag.
Notepad: The Holy Grail. The notebook. This is my life on a day-to-day basis. I’ll write notes in my cell phone, but I’m also pretty old-school when it comes to dating my notepad everyday, and writing notes from meetings. I highlight items that I need to act on.
I go through notepads upon notepads. This is probably the most important thing in the purse! Thee most important thing. It really helps me stay organized because when you’re constantly jumping from meeting to meeting to meeting, to topic to topic to topic, your brain can only handle so much and then you get to a point where everything is mush and you can’t remember. So it’s important for my own sanity too.
I have back-ups upon back-ups!
She wheels backwards and pulls out three identical notepads from one of her desk drawers with a satisfied nod.
It’s an upgrade from my Steno notepad that I had forever.
Lenses: Fisheye lens?
Pauses for dramatic effect and then she lets out a short laugh.
Random stuff. I bought these a couple weeks ago, just because I wanted to mess around with them. There’s a fisheye one, there’s a wide-angle one too. A hobby of mine is taking pictures. I’m always around the city, always taking pictures.
The other day I was driving, and there was this one tree that kept catching my attention at Martha Hart Park. I’m funny like that; I literally just stopped and got out to take a picture of it because I thought it was pretty. Then I come back here, take out every iPhone app I have, edit the crap out of it so it looks absolutely nothing like the original picture I took, and I put it on Facebook and tag it “#nofilter.” Whatever.
Cabinet: This whole entire cabinet is full of sentimental stuff. All things that were gifts to me or represent something that was a special point in my life.
I have an old bumper sticker from my great-uncle who was a state representative from New Britain in the 1960s-’70s.
A picture of me and my parents at my inaugural ball.
My napkin from the White House when I was there for the Conference of Mayors.
This is the flag of the city. See, the bees. Our city slogan means “Industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey.” It was created to honor all the worker bees we had that worked in all the factories that were in New Britain, so our industrial roots, hence where the bee thing comes from. She points to the many bee themed decorations and items around the room.
This was the first interview I did as mayor, and I love this picture because look at my father in the background. He looks like such a proud dad. He’s like, “That’s my kid!” So I keep that one there; it makes me laugh.
Apparently the mayor gets their own badge. I keep that in here because what am I gonna do, wear it?
This one is actually kind of cool. This is the first female mayor of New Britain. Her name is Linda Blogoslawski. And that’s me.
She points to the little girl standing to the right of Blogoslawski in the photo.
This is definitely a treasure.
This is my humble corner. It’s like, “remember where you came from.” These are all things that have some type of sentimental value to me. Yeah, this is my me corner.