What do you get when you ask one of Asbury Park's busiest women for coffee? A lot of interruptions.
The first time that I saw her in person, her hand was clasped over her mouth with her body leaning to one side while seated. We had walked into the city's council chambers, late as per my pregnant punctuality, to not so subtly steal a seat in the back. Like two kids late to the first day of class, my husband and I tried to make ourselves look less noticeable as the meeting progressed, only silently bothered by our not so smooth interruption.
Our eyes panned the room of the then nameless faces and as each person took the microphone to blast the city council over their selected woes, I noticed one member in particular who managed to keep their cool while straining to understand the root of each issue being brought forward. At this particular meeting, residents were demanding answers to the city's action after a recent flood had damaged vehicles. Part of me felt bad for their situation but another wanted to stop the madness and say, "so exactly how did the council make it rain?" It's in times like those, I am reminded that when it comes to dealing with the public, not everyone handles stress or a complicated situation quite the same.
Fast forward to me almost a year later, standing in line at Asbury Park Roastery's Grand Arcade location with the none other, Deputy Mayor of Asbury Park, Amy Quinn; the very same problem solver that I had taken note of before. As sun shadows of early morning beamed off of decaying architecture, I noticed that she is dressed in black, her shirt reading "Made in Asbury Park." She orders a small decaf and we then shortly take up a momentary residence on the picnic tables set up near by.
As not necessarily going into our meeting with an agenda, our conversation stretches the social map and happenings around the city but for mere moments at a time. It is though with each person that passes, do I notice a particular pattern. She. Knows. Everyone. And... Everyone. Knows. Her. Whereas the city is essentially to the core a very small community, you can't help but to feel the connection that Amy Quinn resonates with each person who feels the need to stop to say "hello." Whether it be just a faint wave and "Good Morning" in passing or a full on stop to chat, people are drawn to her. With her signature white framed sunglasses and summery-shaded blonde hair, she nods in agreement of understanding towards each who feel the need to share a tidbit of what is happening in their own personal lives. From a recent dog adoption to weight loss achievements and personal factoids of business dealings in a previous life to a local environmental movement, Amy is all ears, all of the time.
Asbury Park now finds itself, it's core inner workings in a completely re-developmental stage; a movement albeit scary, but ultimately extremely exciting as the landscape of the city is bare and yet to be defined. It's not handcuffed to traditions that long standing established municipalities have which is a huge positive, silver lining. Whether you believe in politics and the whole banter of it's formalities, you have to stop for a second and acknowledge that all of the people who have been entrusted with this ultimately thankless job --one that does not stay quarantined to One Municipal Plaza-- are in fact human, too. Well before 9am and without caffeine, Amy had seen and interacted with so many people who just seemed to be drawn to her. She listened and conversed with genuine interest in each one of their tales. Other than being able to introduce myself, I couldn't add much to their conversation but a hopeful, soft smile. Watching her interact though, I'm confident that whether or not she decides to pursue her political career further, she will always find herself sympathizing, reminiscing, idealizing with and listening to this eclectic community.
With just minutes left on the clock before she is whisked into her day, I struggle to figure out where to begin, both of our coffees now a lukewarm.... I pause.
I usually start my interviews with the same question: Why Asbury Park? But in that moment, I realize that something is very different as the answer has already unfolded all on it's own and before my very eyes. It wasn't Amy Quinn who chose Asbury Park... But rather that it was Asbury Park who chose Amy Quinn.