I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the citizens of La Vergne for allowing me to serve as mayor for the last four years. When I was first sworn in, I was confident that our city could see an improved quality of life and realize positive economic growth. There have been many bumps along the way, primarily because of financial challenges and long-standing issues that this administration faced in its first year.
While we were reeling from a national recession, our own city faced the possibility of state takeover due to a paralysis of making difficult decisions. Our own general fund balance was so low that employee payroll was at risk. And during all of this, there was little accountability for people seeking to take advantage of a flawed system.
After being sworn in, I held a meeting with all employees and directed them to do their jobs and do them legally, morally, and ethically. Honest, hard-working employees had nothing to fear because their jobs were secure. Simply put, staff who could not adhere to our ethics policies or working standards no longer work with the city on behalf of taxpayers.
Within the first six months of this administration, we asked department directors to develop a five-year and 10-year plan for the city. Failing equipment and infrastructure was inspected, but ideas on improving the quality of life were also important. Once these long-term plans were in place, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen had to prioritize its to-do list, with public safety being most important. Our crime rate was out-of-control so beefing up the police department – including an operational 911 system, vehicles that ran, safety vests, and more – emerged as our most urgent item. Also we discovered there was grant funding that had nearly expired, so we opted to use the federal and state funds to complete projects like sidewalks and greenways. Our roads are now on a 10-year paving cycle, the two-inch water lines that could not withstand a flow strong enough to put out a house fire are being replaced, and deteriorating sewer lines are being repaired.
While we have had to spend money in order to achieve progress, we have cut wasteful spending, as well. Our culture budget was virtually cut in half, but we still make donations to non-profits that directly impact our citizens. The board cut about $53,000 this year that would go to the Rescue Squad because we have fully trained staff who are already on the scene of accidents able to perform extrications. We purchased the fire department this year which has allowed the city to expand staff and update antiquated equipment. This purchase will save the city millions of dollars over the lifetime of the previous contract, although we do have to spend some money now to get equipment that is in sound operating condition.
We have brought many companies into the city during the last four years, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nacarato, Ajax Turner, Feed the Children, Holdrite, and more. In addition, there have been small victories in retail already, including a Dollar General Store on the south side of the interstate and a Speedway with amazing slushies. Our major victories lie in the announcement of Wal-Mart locating here with construction scheduled to begin in the next few months. We also have The Shoppes at Stonecrest set to open next Fall, anchored by TJ Maxx and likely a Hobby Lobby. Our economic development team just returned from a retail conference with the news of meeting with several major restaurants now considering La Vergne. We are working closely with these businesses and are relaying the message on your behalf that they would be successful in our city. We have not forgotten our Mom and Pop stores, either. We have a Shop Local campaign that will feature member businesses on the new city app that will be launched in the next few months. It is in the beta testing stage at this time, but people can download business information containing maps and web addresses right to their stores. After a long campaign, we finally have a voice on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce as well.
Our quality of life has soared. We now offer a fourth of July celebration in our own city so people no longer have to drive to another town to watch a wonderful fireworks show. We have a beautiful nighttime Christmas parade, followed by hot chocolate, cookies, a visit from Santa, and our tree-lighting ceremony. We have built a playground in Lake Forest – a promise made 20 years ago but never kept until now. It broke my heart to hear and read comments that children in the area did not deserve the playground or that they would tear it up. That playground remains in beautiful condition and directly benefits about a third of our residents. I am so pleased that children living in Lake Forest now have a safe place to play that is close to home!
Where do I see La Vergne in four years if I have the opportunity to continue serving as Mayor? We will continue to pave roads, including high traffic thoroughfares. We will continue to call in developer bonds for subdivisions that have not been completed to finalize streets. We will continue to pursue retail and restaurants for our citizens. We will continue to identify funding for a splash pad to the children of our community. We will complete the greenway connecting to the roundabout. We will continue to work with the Corps of Engineers to hopefully turn Hurricane Creek off of Stones River Road into a city park. We will work with officials to improve our ISO rating so insurance rates continue to drop for homeowners and industry. We will continue to work with the Election Commission to restore our voting precincts. We requested an independent water/sewer rate study several months ago, so I see these rates either finally leveling out or possibly being reduced. I see our Codes Department continuing efforts to keep our city clean. I see our Police Department continuing their investigations against criminals, crime suppression, and outreach to school children. I see our Fire Department truly blossoming as a hub for community activity. I see our Library adding more e-books and offering programs for youth, teens, and adults.
I see our city as the true gateway into Rutherford County, one that our children return to after college to live, work and play. I do not have deep pockets to mail flyers directly to the households of voters, so I am hoping this message reaches voters prior to Tuesday, November 4th. I thank everyone who shares this message with their family, friends, and neighbors in our city. On Election Day, I ask for your vote so we can continue to grow in a positive direction as a city we are all proud of. Thank you.