Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan says he wants to change the culture at City Hall even down to the way that workers answer the phone.

The new mayor, who has been on the job for less than a month, says he wants to replace the oft-heard phrase What do you want? with How can we help you?

Its a matter of providing better customer service, Horrigan told an audience of about 690 people gathered Thursday for the Akron Roundtable luncheon at the John S. Knight Center downtown.

He also stressed in his half-hour address, as he has done previously, that he wants to challenge the status quo, saying hes busy asking the question why the city does what it does.

Because its always been done that way is not an acceptable answer, Horrigan said to applause. Its not acceptable to me. Its not going to be acceptable to my cabinet.

He said residents can Tweet their questions, challenges and suggestions to @CityofAkronOhio with the hashtag #HeyAkron. He promised that they will get an answer.

The speech was Horrigans first major talk in the community since being sworn in earlier this month. He touched on a wide range of topics everything from the massive ongoing sewer project to offering more housing downtown for young professionals to Huntington Bancshares proposed takeover of Akron-based FirstMerit.

One of his key goals is reducing the cost of the billion-dollar-plus sewer project. He said he met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials in Washington D.C., earlier this month to stress that the city wants to work with the agency and make the project more affordable for businesses and residents.

He also said he reached out to federal court officials to make sure what often appeared to be a war with the federal government and the judges is now over.

Former Mayor Don Plusquellic, who led the city for nearly three decades before resigning last year, didnt have the best relationship with either the EPA or federal judges.

Horrigan, who joked that the Akron Roundtable talk would double as his State of the City address, noted that city leaders are now working on a plan to boost housing downtown, especially for young professionals. He said hes met with developers on potential projects that he hopes to announce before the summer.

He also spoke about improving the health in Akron, particularly infant mortality rates, and boosting neighborhoods, saying he wants to replicate the success of Highland Square elsewhere in the city.

As for the Huntington news that broke this week, Horrigan wants to help the company grow in the community.

The mayor also singled out and praised Karen Edwards, a city resident who has launched City Sprouts (www.facebook.com/City-Sprouts-759542737432377/). The program teaches city kids about gardening and healthy eating.

The audience was permitted to ask questions after his speech. Akron Roundtable Director Karen Lefton passed the questions along, noting that one person wanted the mayor to explain three concrete steps he will take to boost the citys population.

The citys new planning director has said he wants the population to be back over 200,000 by 2020 and hit 250,000 by 2050.

Housing. Jobs. Health care, Horrigan responded, succinctly.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him at @armonrickABJ.