Twitter Tussle: Herbst and teens clash on social media

After the snowstorm Monday, First Selectman Tim Herbst found himself in the center of another kind of storm, on social media.

Herbst has been active on social media, both Facebook and Twitter, during the town’s last two snowstorms. He has used both to give storm information and respond to residents — everything from questions on when streets will get cleared to what to do if a plow hits your mailbox. However, things went downhill a bit Monday night when Trumbull High students, via Twitter, wanted to know about school closing the next day. While the decision on school closings rests in the hands of Superintendent Gary Cialfi, many were sending messages to the first selectman at

“Getting crushed on Twitter tonight by THS students that want school canceled,” Herbst tweeted at 7:20 Monday night. “300 v. Army of 1 #tiredfirstselectman.”

This week’s storm, which dumped ice and about 10 inches of snow, closed school on Monday. A group of students Monday night asked the first selectman to cancel school again. While many students joked with the first selectman, who responded to dozens of the messages, other posts were more argumentative, with some students hurling insults and name-calling at the town’s chief executive.

Some of the students comments seem to have been deleted later, but Herbst responded to many, saying to one, “I don’t think you learned that in your English class” and “I can’t believe how some of you behave on social media.” He also used hashtags like #startactinglikeyoungadults and #DrCialfihelpme

Other Twitter users asked the first selectman why, as the adult, he was bothering to engage with students

“They are residents just like anyone else,” Herbst told The Times Tuesday morning. “Whether it’s polite or impolite, I will respond.”

Many students were enjoying watching the social media live entertainment, some tweeting Herbst, “You’re my hero,” and another Twitter user putting Herbst’s face on Superman’s body, congratulating him on how he handled the barrage of comments.

“It was nice a lot of students got on there and defended me,” Herbst said. “Some were being very disrespectful, but I’m very direct and blunt and I don’t sit back and take that kind of abuse.”

At one point, Herbst likened himself to Gov. Chris Christie on Twitter, saying he tells it like it is.

Some of the Twitter tussling continued Tuesday. One student told the first selectman that a teacher called his Twitter account “unprofessional.” Herbst responded by asking the name of the teacher and saying the teacher shouldn’t be on Twitter during class, if that happened.

Other messages were more playful Tuesday, with students asking the first selectman to cancel school until June and another asking Herbst to visit Trumbull High School so they can all meet the town leader in person.

Herbst said Tuesday he hoped the students could learn that what they put out on social media is out there and many, even adults, say things on there they would never say in person.

Herbst, who ran for state treasurer last November, was also seeking social media help Monday night from fellow Republican GOP leaders, including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart. Boughton is active on Twitter and his tweets have often gained media attention, both local and national. He has some 17,000 followers. Herbst was tweeting @MayorMark, calling him the “Jedi Master” and asking for advice in handling the teens.

Herbst said he will continue to stay active on social media.

“I think that of all the elected officials in the Town of Trumbull I probably use social media the most to directly speak to constituents,” Herbst said. “I do like the fact that a lot of students follow me on Twitter — that’s the new mode of communication.”

Whether he picked up fans or critics, Herbst, who has been mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate in the future, said he had about 200 new followers Monday night.