News Review
2017 State of the City Speech
by Mayor Lloyd Winnecke
Posted Date: 4/11/2017

 

City Seal

 

It is a great pleasure to join the Rotary Club of Evansville to deliver the annual State of the City. It’s nice to see so many dear personal friends. So many friends of the city. So many people who give their time, talent and treasure to make Evansville the city that it is.

I know there are a lot of special guests here today, but I’d like to use my mayoral privilege to recognize three at this time. The first is my wife, Carol, a member of this esteemed organization. As my partner in life, Carol, listens, advises, pushes, picks up trash, exercises, attends neighborhood association meetings --- but above all else --- she loves. I could not lead with the energy that I do without her. I’m so grateful for her support.

My father is also here today. Dad turned 87 in February. He’s not as agile as he used to be. His hearing is so-so, but he is still plugged into what’s happening in the city and what I am doing as mayor. Dad reads the paper everyday --- and I mean every word --- and he watches the news every night on television. So I’m always facing pop quizzes about current events. He’s not sure the Cubs can repeat or not, but proudly flies “the W,” even though I root for the Cardinals.

I’m so pleased that our dear friend Trudy Mitchell is also with us today. Trudy, thank you for your longtime friendship, love and support.

Well, there’s a lot going on in the world. There’s so much “breaking news” from day to day that we’re almost afraid to be away from our device or television. The tenor of national politics is unbearable. Political rhetoric from both sides of the aisle is, at best, biting. And at its worse --- well --- a lot worse.

Luckily, we do not live through that kind of political drama in Evansville. Oh sure, there are policy disagreements, and we even have a few personality conflicts from time to time. One of the reasons I have chosen to dedicate MY public service to the city of Evansville is that, for the most part, we can control our own destiny.
As your Mayor, I have, and will always continue to work in the best interests of one very special interest ---the City of Evansville.

I’m pleased to enjoy a productive relationship with our City Council. I know that a number of them are here today. Would you please join me in thanking them for their service?

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A couple of weeks ago, I was in a meeting of community leaders discussing a specific project when one of the participants described our city in what I found to be a really accurate manner, given the clearly dynamic change taking place.

This leader observed that “our city is in a state of explosive growth.” “Explosive growth.” That’s bold, but I believe accurate. So how does a city reach a state of “explosive growth?” Well first, I think that its citizens have to believe in themselves. Believe that their city can aspire to be more. That’s what is happening here and now, my friends. We continue to come together --- to work together, even when we don’t agree. There’s collaboration for the greater good. There is a laundry list of flashy projects taking place in our city, but at the heart of each of those projects is a can-do community mindset. That is one of the reasons --- and perhaps the most important reason --- that Evansville is in a state of explosive growth.

It’s difficult to dispute our current success. Yes, there are areas for improvement, but the excitement about our STRONG CITY is relevant and inspiring. Evansville’s success is noted all over Indiana. I hope that gives you as much personal satisfaction as it does me.

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During my first State of the City Address, I spent time introducing the cabinet and other individuals that would be tasked with implementing our vision for city government.

I’m proud that many of those good people are here today. They deserve a great deal of thanks for their public service. If all of the department heads and any members of their staffs could stand to be recognized. Many of these individuals have served multiple Administrations.

Please join me in a sign of appreciation.

There are four city employees with whom I share office space on a daily basis. Four people who, I personally witness pour their hearts and souls into their jobs on behalf of the city. Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer, Communications Director Ella Johnson, Executive Assistant Marianne Hill and Administrative Assistant Chelsea Brown. Please help me acknowledge their fine work.

So many of our successes are a result of collaboration and innovative thinking inside of our departments.

At the first cabinet meeting this year, I emphasized a renewed goal of improving customer service and thinking “outside of the box” when delivering city services.

This task is never complete and must evolve with the outside world.
I’d like to share some examples of how your city government is focused on providing more efficient services.

It has not been uncommon in the past six years (or ever) for individuals to voice concerns or recommendations on how local government can be more “business friendly.”

The importance of an open dialogue is key in any situation, and that is why we regularly seek feedback from stakeholders such as developers, homebuilders and engineers.

As a result of those discussions, developers and builders can now obtain new residential building permits, utility taps and sign permits online!

And we’re certainly not done. More user-friendly, technology updates are in the pipeline.

Every month I meet with Bill Pedtke from the Southern Indiana Builder’s Association and local developers, looking for ways to make it easier to do business with the city. And, Area Plan Commission Director Ron London and I meet monthly with area engineers to review the site review process to help identify areas for improvement.

Along those same lines, Building Commissioner Ron Beane has my support on the input he’s provided to reduce the number of licenses that are required from his department. Currently, there are 45 licenses ranging from different types of contractors to specialized electricians to remodelers with specific jobs. I agree with his assessment on how we can be more responsive to those seeking to do work with city government.

Again, I appreciate both “Ron’s” in their willingness to be open-minded and work towards continuous improvement.

If you own or operate a business, you are quite aware of the checklist of items that must be completed before even opening your doors. If you have ever visited the state of Indiana’s “IN Biz portal,” the state has certainly made improvements and is ready to take it to the Next Level (Governor Holcomb can thank me later for using that terminology).

The City, in partnership with Growth Alliance (GAGE) and the State of Indiana, is in the beginning stages of creating a new, state of the art, online business portal that will allow new, and existing business owners, to create and register their business at a “one stop shop” website and guide them through the necessary steps for their business to open.

Once again, it’s collaboration that is making this happen. In this case, Matt Lehman, Project Manager in the Building Commission, Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer, Abby Elpers from the Growth Alliance of Greater Evansville and GAGE board member Thom Endress are working together.

The Growth Alliance is doing great work on many fronts and recently added Ellen Horan to lead the organization. Ellen is still new to the area, and has aggressive ideas on how city can grow even more. Welcome, Ellen!

In the very near future, the City and Vectren will announce a major new solar project at a city-owned facility.

The details of the project will be announced before the end of this month, but it is a win-win for the community. And yet again we have progressed to the point of execution thanks to the hard work of a city employee, Superintendent of Cemeteries Chris Cooke.

Chris may be the only city employee who receives more recognition than the Mayor. He has not only done a great job running Locust Hill and Oak Hill Cemeteries, but he has become a leader in his industry. Most recently, Chris was named a certified cemetery executive by the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association, where he is a board member representing the city of Evansville.

Chris, thank you for your service to the city and for your work with the United Neighborhoods of Evansville.

Some of our administration’s most important work is our fight against blight. We’ve identified 1,800 blighted residential properties in the city. 1,800 dilapidated homes that are magnets for crime, dragging down the value of neighboring properties.

As a result of the thoughtful effort of the Indiana Legislature, last July we established the Evansville Land Bank. This is a simple concept: we acquire blighted homes, raze them and hold them in the Land Bank until we can identify an appropriate party for future development.

Last summer we acquired 263 parcels from Vanderburgh County --- properties that were “no sales” as a result of the 2015 tax sale. Only two of those had houses worthy of rehabilitation. Those two are currently listed for sale.

Over 100 blighted houses have been demolished by the Land Bank, and we’ve transferred 57 properties to organizations, businesses and individuals to put them back on the tax rolls.

And when you add our previous work from Indiana’s Hardest Hit Fund and plans for 2017, the city will have razed approximately 333 vacant houses. The red dots on the map depict houses we have torn down in 2015 and 2016, while the blue dots represent properties we anticipate razing this year.

Carolyn Rusk works in the Department of Metropolitan Development and oversees this important process. Under the management of Executive Director Kelley Course, the Land Bank team is also developing a website to reflect the location of available properties, including houses worthy of rehabilitation, the application to purchase property and other public information regarding the Land bank and its activities.

On a parallel path, the Evansville Brownfield Corporation is also performing vital work. It has sold five lots at market rate --- to three different builders, representing the first non-subsidized construction in the city’s core in 70 years.

With First Friday’s now underway, you’ll be happy to hear that the Brownfield board is also about to complete its second public parking lot in Haynie’s corner, adding 24 parking spaces.

We made a big deal last year, and rightfully so, about us being named a Promise Zone city by HUD. This ten year designation means we get bonus points when applying for certain federal grants. Our Promise Zone team is working diligently to identify solutions that will: improve economic activity, create jobs, reduce violent crime, improve affordable housing, increase access to health care and advance education. All in an area that touches about 22,000 residents --- our most vulnerable neighbors in our highest poverty areas.

ECHO Housing is the city’s lead partner in this effort. Executive Director Stephanie Tenbarge is a dynamo, on the front line every day fighting for solutions. We are already reaping rewards. So far, the Promise Zone classification has resulted in $2 million in affordable housing tax credits for two different ECHO housing projects.

A phenomenal start to our Promise Zone story.

If you live or work in the vicinity of North Main Street, or quite frankly anywhere downtown, the street closures as a result of construction have been a headache. Trust me, I get it.

However, the end result will be well worth it.

Coordinating all of the infrastructure improvements around these developments has been quite the task, given all of the explosive growth.

Take the North Main Street area as an example. It was badly in need of updated infrastructure, so the Evansville Water and Sewer Utility accelerated replacement of water and sewer lines to coincide with the streetscape project. Furthermore, Vectren replaced gas lines now instead of at a later time.

While this project and coordination in general is normally a challenge, the Department of Metropolitan Development, the Utility and the City Engineer have guided these projects under budget and on time.

City Engineer Brent Schmitt, DMD Project Manager Lana Abel, and Utility Deputy Director Mike Labitizke are the professionals behind the scenes that make it all happen. Thank you for your collaboration.

So, under the category of “it looks like the City of Evansville has arrived” is… the arrival of Uber! Its entrance to the market can only be attributed to the fact that so many residents were hungry for the service: especially millennials!

So many people had a role in bringing Uber to town. GAGE staffers, past and present; GAGE board members Thom Endress and Alfonso Vidal; members of the business community, including those from the online eyeglass provider Ditto; airport manager Doug Joest and others.

The ride share launched in Evansville on January 25th, and is doing well. Uber officials were so impressed with our rollout that they plan to mimic the process in other cities working through local economic development organizations.

Evansville was a unique case, and we far exceed Uber’s expectations on almost every level, including driver sign-ups, the number of app downloads…and the media coverage was phenomenal.

While Uber has transformed our vehicular thinking, students from Central High School, Memorial High School and the University of Evansville have given us a whole new perspective on bicycling.

The City’s first bike share program kicked off in October.

A special tip of the hat to Don Jones and Erin Lewis from the University of Evansville. They are part of the Changemaker Challenge. This program is all about discovering the world’s next wave of social entrepreneurs and innovators. The competition began at the collegiate level and was opened up to area high schools last year. The Central and Memorial teams both independently proposed a bike sharing project, and have since worked together on its launch and execution.

There are 70 cruiser bikes available at seven stations across the city for bike sharing members to use on demand. Anyone over the age of 18 can participate.

So, here’s how this is being received. As of last Wednesday, there are more than 800 members. That’s right, 800. Those members have taken 1,500 rides and ridden nearly 300,000 minutes. And remember, this program began in October. Just think what those numbers will look like now that nice weather is here to stay!

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Last year at this time, I announced the Build 4 Evansville initiative that focused on major quality of life projects in our city. These are amenities that our citizens both want and deserve. Our thinking is that some portion of these projects could be funded with future gaming revenue.

And let me make the quick point that so many of the city’s capital investments, whether it is to buy fire trucks, police cars or facility improvements are made possible through revenue generated by our partnership with Tropicana. I believe John and his team are here today. I’d like them to stand and be recognized. Our relationship with Tropicana is outstanding and I look forward to our ongoing partnerships.

Please join me in thanking the team from Tropicana.

As a result of our new lease agreement with Tropicana, we were able to make immediate investments last year in our new Land Bank, purchase snow plows, a METS bus, Levee Authority pump, weather siren and a laundry list of other items that our departments required.

And when the doors of the brand new $50 million dollar land based casino open, additional revenue will be available for the Build 4 Evansville projects.

Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer has been working to identify solutions, feasibility and provide a path forward on each of the four.

In 2016, the city partnered with Leadership Evansville to hold public meetings on the future of Mesker Ampitheatre. Over 300 people either attended or provided feedback in the interactive meetings. Our goal was to gather stakeholders and the public to visit the facility for a first-hand look at its present condition, and to start a realistic dialogue on next steps. Public input provided a wide scope of ideas ranging from complete restoration to demolition of the aging structure.

However, common themes did acknowledge that the venue should be smaller, have the ability to provide entertainment, allow for event space, connect with the zoo, increase green space and honor the legacy of George Mesker. Ideally, all of these recommendations can be incorporated into a renovated facility that I have maintained should be re-opened in some capacity.

Next step is to develop a plan, budget and revenue stream for consideration. But to be clear, there is no immediate timeline.

Next door is our zoo.

Mesker’s next exhibit, the Engelbrecht Carousel, is set to open this spring. Construction of this beautiful attraction is essentially complete. In addition to the carousel are two event rooms, which can be used for everything from education to birthday parties. Each room holds 40 people, and the two rooms can be opened as one larger room to accommodate 80. The Zoological Society is also raising the last bit of private money to fund the aviary. This cool bird exhibit will allow visitors an up-close and very personal experience with more than two hundred birds. It is not too late to make an investment. Zoo Director Amos Morris expects the carousel’s opening will boost zoo’s annual attendance by 15 percent.

This exciting addition to the zoo is made possible by countless philanthropists, most notably the Engelbrecht family. The capital campaign is led by Margaret Koch. Margaret and her committee of volunteers, including my wife Carol, have worked tirelessly on this effort.

Thanks to the vote of our Common Council as part of this year’s budget, planning will soon begin on the zoo’s next big project: penguins.

Amos says it will take the better part of a year to design and prepare construction documents for the penguin exhibit. As with the carousel project, the city will partner with the Zoological Society to bring South America penguins to Mesker. This addition will be on your left after entering the zoo grounds. Our goal is to have the exhibit completely designed so that construction can begin once the appropriate level of money is secured.

The next of our Build 4 Evansville projects is a replacement for Lloyd Pool. As if the aquatic community hadn’t provided enough motivation to move forward with a replacement, along comes Reitz High School graduate, and Indiana University standout, Lily King. Her inspiring, gold medal performance in the Olympics convinced --- I believe --- even the nayest of the naysayers --- that the third largest city in the state is worthy of new indoor aquatic center.

The Aquatics Center Task Force is now working with consultants from Hafer & Associates and Counsilman-Hunsaker, a world-wide leader in aquatics. They will recommend what we need and where a new facility could be located. As I have said from the start, the current process is not to determine whether a new pool is needed or not. Lloyd Pool has answered that question for us and it is our job to replace that facility which opened in 1975.

If any of our taskforce members are in the audience, would you please stand to be recognized? I’m grateful for your service.

Well, hundreds of trees have been planted in and around the Roberts Park area. The Parks Foundation has constructed a path from the parking lot to the south side of the park so that pedestrians and runners can connect to the Lloyd Expressway overpass. Your own club has donated $100,000 for a future wetlands feature. And it’s my hope that the City will have the financial capacity to include construction of the first phase of the park in next year’s budget. The idea of connecting green space from Morgan Avenue to Lincoln Avenue is one that I will not abandon, because I continue to recognize this as a once in a life time opportunity to create our own Central Park. So, when you drive past the open grassy lot and wonder when something is going to happen, I think the answer is “we’re getting closer.”

Although not technically part of the Roberts Park site, the proposed Woodmere Dog Park on the state hospital grounds is moving forward. If you recall, we respected the concerns of stakeholders by adjusting the location and have relied on volunteers to make it a reality. As of today, a non-profit group has been formed and the organizational stage is complete.

Last June, the project was the financial beneficiary of the Evening on the River event and will help with start-up costs for the dog park. I would like to personally thank the new officers of the Friends of Woodmere Dog Park – Denise Johnson, Christine Keck, Emily Lamb and Kirk Williams.

Our goal for the main Build 4 Evansville projects is to plan the best that we can, so that when financial resources are available, we can start construction. I think it’s very likely that construction on a new pool could begin next year, that construction could begin in Roberts Park next year, that fundraising will begin for the penguin exhibit as early as this year and we’ll develop a long-range plan for the amphitheater.

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Okay, I’m almost halfway through the speech and I haven’t mentioned any of what I call --- the big flashy projects. Well, now’s the time for that update.

The convention hotel is open doing very well. The presence of the DoubleTree has allowed the City of Evansville to steal the Ohio Valley Conference men’s and women’s basketball championships from the City of Nashville for next year. That represents 1800 hotel room nights!

The new Hyatt Place Hotel project has actually begun with the razing of the former Scottish Rite Cathedral. If you haven’t driven through this area lately, you may be surprised at the pace of demolition. Developer Hermang Shaw would like this new 139-room hotel, with a front door at Second and Chestnut, to open about the same time as the medical school.

August of 2018 is that target date. Construction workers recently hoisted the last piece of steel to the fourth floor of the new 140,000 square foot school. As I’ve said many times, I believe this is the most transformative project for our city since the opening of USI.

As with the convention hotel project, it’s always a good day if I can take a quick stroll over to the medical school construction site. Fireproofing of the steel is well underway and should take a few more weeks. Other workers are already erecting the pre-cast walls. And if weather cooperates, anticipate the building being fully weathertight by the end of July.

Construction should be complete next spring and then installation of furniture, fixtures and equipment will commence in order for the building to be ready for classes in August of 2018. There is incredible coordination between Skanska and the city. City Engineer Brent Schmitt runs point on this for us and does a masterful job working with Skanska’s Barb Daum and her team.

The clinical research facility, another 25,000 square foot building, will be constructed caddy corner from the school at the site that currently houses the Towne Square radio stations. Once the radio stations have moved to their new home at the Fifth Third Bank tower, the radio station building will be razed. Although no specific groundbreaking date is set, it’s likely to happen in the first quarter of next year with a completion by spring of 2020.

I don’t see how we can be sitting in this facility and not talk about the status of Tropicana’s $50 million investment. John and Stacey have construction workers on the clock! This 75,000 square foot facility --- the first since land based gaming was approved by the legislature --- is scheduled to open this December! (Right, John?)

A couple months ago, the City through the Port Authority engaged Morley and Associates to begin the process to determine the feasibility of relocating the LST 325 to the location of the current Tropicana Riverboat.

Morley has completed most of the field work and is ready to submit their findings to the Corp of Engineers. The initial assessment is that the LST will fit nicely into the existing structures.

It is our hope that the Corp will promptly review the findings so that additional work can be accomplished to ensure that a move can be facilitated once the Riverboat leaves its dock.

Lots of activity happening along the riverfront and it will be quite an improvement for visitors seeking to tour the historic navy vessel.

This year is off to an excellent start! Numerous ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings have taken place.

One in particular I would like to highlight. Just last week I was pleased to join John and David Dunn, and the rest of the Dunn Hospitality Group, to celebrate the openings of their two most recent hotels; the Home 2 Suites and the Holiday Inn Express. In 1991, Mayor Frank McDonald II called the Lloyd Expressway and then I-164 as the city’s new front door. Look at it now!

The confidence people and companies have in the direction of our city is one of the primary reasons for the significant amount of investment that is occurring throughout our community. And, as predicted, the medical school has become a catalyst for transforming the center of our city.

We are seeing everything from small enterprises and family-owned business, all the way up to Fortune 500 companies…like McKesson Specialty Health.

McKesson Specialty Health is a division of McKesson Corporation, the largest pharmaceutical distributer in the United States, ranking 5th on the Fortune 500 list.

The new McKesson Indiana Regional Billing Office occupies almost 14,000 square feet of space in the Walker Building, (part of the former Welborn Hospital). When the announcement was made around Christmas, 35 employees were already working at the local office. Ultimately, McKesson plans to employ approximately 100 billing and collection staff, coders and administrators.

McKesson officials said one of the variables in their decision to expand locally was Evansville’s central location to markets throughout the country, and because of our explosive growth.

They specifically cited the new medical education and research campus that’s under construction just a few blocks from here. McKesson said the company looks forward to growing with the City of Evansville, and we look forward to McKesson being an active part of our community.

McKesson will soon have another downtown corporate neighbor. Today I am pleased to announce for the first time publically that CH Robinson, a global leader in logistics, shipping and freight transportation, will set-up shop in the heart of our city. The company is currently located in Warrick County, but company management said their employees want to work in Downtown Evansville.

In fact, the local director said in order for CH Robinson to remain competitive when recruiting new talent, the company needs to be in an urban area that is walkable for its staff. Downtown certainly fits that bill.

The company and its 31 employees, will move into the vacant Integra Bank building, taking the ground floor and leasing the upper floors to tenants. The company will begin building out the space this month, and the move will happen sometime this summer. The staff will include sales and customer service reps earning an average of $65,000 a year.

General Manager Tom Burkhardt is representing the company today. Thank you for your investment and the company’s decision to relocate.

The City has kept its commitment to investing in our road infrastructure. Paving work has been completed on Washington Avenue, Fares Avenue, Division Street and an emergency repair at Green River Road and Cass Avenue.

In September, the City of Evansville was awarded a $700,000-plus Community Crossings matching grant from the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The road project consists of milling and resurfacing 3.4 miles of Riverside Drive, between Mulberry Street and Boeke Road, and includes the installation of more than 80 ADA-compliant curb ramps. 85% of this corridor had been identified in the pavement asset management system as needing maintenance and preservation work within the coming 3 years

This section of roadway carries approximately 5,200 vehicles a day and encompasses both residential and commercial areas throughout the corridor.

Following our public hearing, planning has already begun for 2017 paving projects. There will be street improvements in every section of the city this year. We maintain an on-going inventory of street needs, so as additional funding becomes available we can jump into action. So, look for more orange barrels!

By now you should have heard about Renew Evansville, the federally mandated Integrated Overflow Control Plan that requires the City to significantly upgrade our aging sewer infrastructure – some of which is more than 100 years old. The plan will cost $729 million to implement over a 24 and a half years period. It is by far the largest capital expenditure in our city’s history. We’ve overcome many obstacles and challenges to get to the point where I can say we are on the right path.

One of the most expensive projects in the plan is Bee Slough. We’ve all smelled it, and if you’ve driven along Veterans Memorial Parkway following a heavy rain, you’ve seen water in the slough raise almost up to the roadway. Calling it water is being kind. It’s actually --- well you’ve smelled it. It washes into the sewer system, overflows into the creek and eventually the river.

If you’ve driven Veterans Memorial Parkway lately you will notice a lot of activity is taking place as work begins on the Cass-Adams sewer project at Bee Slough. The project involves installing 3,000 feet of sewer line, a 1,000-foot-long retaining wall, a lift station and a road running parallel along the slough to create the infrastructure that will enable the utility to drain Bee Slough at various times. The construction will cost over $13 million and is expected to take 20 months to complete.

Simultaneously, the Water & Sewer Utility is embarking on another ambitious capital improvement to replace almost 41,000 feet of water lines, or 7.8 miles, this year. It will involve 9 projects at a total construction cost estimated at $8.1 million. Some of these projects are underway. Others will begin this summer and fall. In addition, design work is being completed on another 12,500 feet, or 2.4 miles, with work starting in early 2018.

I receive a lot of feedback from the public through social media – Facebook and Twitter. People like to comment on all of the positive development going on in Evansville, but they also ask what’s being done to help low-income residents who struggle to make ends meet.

As a result, I’m pleased to announce a new program that will soon rollout designed to help low-income residents who are struggling to pay water and sewer utility bills.

The Evansville Water & Sewer Utility is partnering with a private insurance provider to offer insurance protection for certain water and sewer line breaks and specific indoor plumbing repairs.

The utility will receive a $50,000 deposit to set-up the program, and a percentage of the insurance policy premiums. That income will be used to support water and sewer assistance program for eligible customers unable to pay their bills.

The Community Action Program of Evansville, a longtime community partner, will administer the program. Qualifications will mirror requirements CAPE uses to provide financial assistance for Vectren customers.

Since taking office our administration has made a focused effort to improve government transparency and increase community engagement. We believe that by informing the public and providing greater access to the governing process citizens will better understand why certain decisions are made.

We launched Access EVC, the online video streaming and archiving system that lets citizens watch government meetings on a computer or smartphone. And, we rolled-out a Boards and Commission portal with information on over 60 local boards and commissions that govern our city and county.

Today, I am pleased to announce a revised city website launching in July that will provide greater access to government services. Currently in the design stage, the new website will offer “quick links” to online services, billing and permits. The city homepage will also feature a prominent link for citizens to report problems, ask questions or share a concern.

We will begin transitioning content to the new website next month, with the launch around mid-July.

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It’s been a busier year than usual. I’m honored to have been selected President of the statewide association lobbying for cities and towns. In this role, I’ve been part of the decision to return our state conference to Evansville this October --- the first time since 2007 --- and I’ve been able to brag about the many great success stories of our fair city. I’ve said this before, but I truly believe Evansville is seen through a different lens all around the state. And I have to tell you, people are impressed. They like the fact that we work well as a region. That like that we --- perhaps better than anywhere in the state --- check our individual and institutional agendas at the door in the interest of the greater good. That’s why we are in a state of explosive growth!

We’re also getting better at believing in ourselves and telling our story. I’m going to leave you with a bit of a tease. It’s about community branding. As a city, we’ve talked about it for years. Some of you may even remember the “Feel the Pride Come Alive” effort from the 1980’s. I’m not talking about anything like that.

Look for a new effort to be rolled out later this spring. Allow me to thank Jon Headlee of Ten Adams and Jon Ruthenburg of Grey Loon for leading a creative effort that is nothing short of impressive. Their plan has been tested, researched, multiple focus groups have weighed in. And now the finishing touches are being applied. What you’ll see beginning in late May, is part of a thoughtful, diverse three-year plan generously funded by the local corporate community. I’m confident that it will be yet another success story in this unique chapter of Evansville’s history.

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When I speak to school groups, scout troops, church groups --- just about anyone, but especially young people, --- I remind them that “nice matters.” How we treat our fellow man is as important today as perhaps anytime in our nation’s history.

Now more than ever, we should be mindful of how hate and negativity helps no one --- advances nothing.

It will take all of us working together…hand in hand…to continue our city’s “explosive growth” and optimistic outlook for the future.

The creative team working on the branding campaign has done some phenomenal work and I’d like to close with some words they have created to characterize the City of Evansville.

Evansville channels our energy into creating the kind of change people want to see in their community. We represent the diversity of our stories. Whatever your passion or interest, you can make it happen here.

Evansville is for entrepreneurs, for trailblazers and change-agents, for movers-and-shakers, for people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, for people who want to make a fresh start, for people who care about making their corner of the world a better place.

Evansville is ready for you to make your mark — from Franklin St. to TEDx to Haynie’s Corner and beyond — the momentum is real. Join us in our journey.

Thank you, and may God bless the City of Evansville.


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