COLCHESTER, Conn. — How much can you say in 140 characters?
The first selectman in Colchester, Gregg Schuster, is saying quite a bit with his Twitter account, @GreggSchuster, which has sent more than 3,100 tweets and has more than 870 followers.
That's minuscule compared with, say, pop star Katy Perry's 50 million followers, or President Barack Obama's 41 million. But for the top official of a small Eastern Connecticut town, Schuster an active user of social media.
Sometimes it's a tweet about a road closed because of a bad accident, or cancellations and closings caused by impending weather. Other tweets are of a more personal nature — his chance to interact with followers on a human level.
There are tweets about rooting for the New England Patriots, and photos from a recent family trip to Florida. And yes, even a photo or status update of the family cat.
Twitter is a quick and easy way, Schuster said, to exchange small pieces of information about the town.
"I spend, maybe 10 minutes a day on tweets," he said. An application called HootSuite allows him to post the same information to both Twitter and Facebook, where he also has a page.
On a recent Friday, he tweeted that Colchester schools would be closed for the day. That led a Bacon Academy student to ask if the evening's basketball games would still be played. Schuster responded that a decision on them would come by noon.
Residents are of two minds about the postings.
"Both my daughter and I enjoy his posts," Kelly Burkey said. "She especially likes when he interacts with the kids on Twitter. He jokes with them."
Schuster often leaves local high school students in suspense on nights before the town might call off classes due to snow.
One asked recently, "When will we know the deal about school?"
He replied, "Some students told me to stop last time. Maybe I shouldn't say."
Some residents think his account should stick to official town news.
"I don't really care to know that he wants to postpone Valentine's Day or if he thinks he should have been an Olympian," Ann Marie Gagliardi said. "We have enough comedians in the world. He's got a personal Facebook page, and that's where he should put these comments."
At 37, Schuster is one of the youngest municipal officials in eastern Connecticut. Others include New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio at 36 and Griswold First Selectman Kevin Skulczyck. They all use social media to get their message out, to varying degrees.
Skulczyck has not yet made the foray into Twitter.
"I'm 44 years old and I really just started to use Facebook," he said. "I'm going to wait a little while 'til I start twittin' or tweetin'."
Skulczyck said one of his first orders of business when he took office was to set up an official Facebook page.
The "Selectman's Office of Griswold, CT" page includes the first selectman's daily schedule, as well as local and state updates.
Skulczyck said a post about the thefts of dozens of storm drains in early January yielded information that helped identify the suspect who was eventually arrested.
"I'm not saying we cracked the case," he said, but the information had an impact.
Bulletin reporter Elizabeth Regan contributed to this story.
Information from: Norwich Bulletin, http://www.norwichbulletin.com