April 16, 2024

January 4, 2024 State Of The City Address

Delivered to the business community 

Paducah/McCracken County Convention Center 

Thank you, Commissioner Wilson I’m truly honored to be here this morning. I am joined by much of  the City Staff and my fellow commissioners. Sandra, Ray, Buz, and David. I also want to introduce  my family beginning with my wife Angie who is the practice manager at Mercy Health OBGYN, 2 of  my 3 sisters, Julie McCoart and Mary Ruth Maggard, my sister Susan’s husband Phil Morse, and my  brother Tim. I wanted to introduce my family to you this morning as they are such an important part  of my life. Beginning with Angie, without my family I would not be your Mayor today and I wanted to  thank them publicly for their support and all they have done to help me be accountable as your  Mayor. 

Having spent my entire career in some aspect of business, either as a corporate executive; small  business owner, or consultant, or simply speaking to the business community this morning, I feel  right at home. My approach to most everything I do comes from a business perspective. Of course, I  have learned the hard way that government is NOT business per se, but running it like a business  when possible makes a great deal of sense. 

In reflecting on 2023 and looking at the year ahead, I can say we certainly have had success and we,  as a community, are definitely growing again after many years of little or no growth. There have been  challenges along the way (there will always be challenges) but I am proud of how we have met those  challenges. I hold myself accountable as your leader to grow and learn by experience and am proof  

of that as I stand here before you today. 

My focus as your Mayor has been on economic development. I work on economic development  every single day, whether it be the large projects we are vying for through GPED or simply through  the enablement of small business growth. I meet regularly with anyone and everyone who wants to  start or grow their business to offer my personal support or that of the City’s. I am acutely aware that  job growth is the absolute key to the growth of our overall community. I said this when I spoke to the  Rotary Club last month and I’ll say it again, we can build all the sports parks, hotels, and airport  terminals money can buy…but without job creation to put people in our new sports park or to fly out  of our new airport terminal, it is all for naught. I can assure you economic development will  continue to be a primary focus. 

An important element of economic development of course is the City’s relationship with  developers. I focus on encouraging and enabling both residential and commercial developers who  want to invest in our community… because it is through outside investment and public-private  partnerships that we will spur growth. We have a seminar later this month targeted toward both  large and small developers and we already have over 150 participants signed up for it. This is a very  positive sign for the community and reinforces the fact that the environment we have created  continues to be the foundation for growth.  

Already we have significant development projects in our community either just completed, in  progress, or planned. The new airport terminal and the Dunlap/Walter Jetton Project both have  been completed and the outdoor sports complex is getting ready to kick into high gear. The  downtown riverfront development project which will re-envision the entire riverfront will include a  new docking pier for our rapidly increasing riverboat tourists and is planned to break ground April 1.  Also, there is a developer evaluating the hotel site beside the Holiday Inn in close proximity to the  Convention Center. In addition, we continue to work with Weyland Ventures on the City Block  project. The city remains committed to the project and to a hotel in that location but we will make  decisions based upon the options presented to us as market conditions allow.  

We hear constantly from visitors and even other city officials who travel here the value of our  downtown. We remain focused on building out downtown further and doing everything we can to  help make the downtown merchants, both retail and hospitality, more successful. We have  restaurants in our downtown that people drive from out of town for and who even plan their entire  weekend around… and there is significant opportunity to further capitalize on this. If you are in  downtown at night you will likely hear music up and down our streets. This kind of festive 

atmosphere is what draws people to a fun night out on the town. Paducah’s downtown is the heart  of this community and we will continue to invest in it.  

While downtown is important there are other areas of the city that we see growth in and where we  want to promote further development. The southside project is coming along well and although a  very long term project, offers a great deal of upside opportunity to build out an area of town that has  been in decline. The Southside residents are very proud people and represent a PROUD Community  and we will continue to invest in that area of town. Also, the mid – town area around the Coke plant  has seen increased private investment and continues to offer great promise for development. The  old St. Thomas More grade school and church, I believe, is prime property for development,  especially given the State project that will eventually straighten out that left/right turn we all have to  make to go from Lone Oak Road onto 32nd street.  

And of course, the mall area, continues to grow. Although malls themselves and retail brick and  mortar stores continue to see challenges from on line shopping… in the Paducah area, the traffic  and shopping patterns around Ky Oaks Mall are well established and continue to do well. In fact, I  believe the area between our mall and Barkley Regional Airport will become both the City and  County’s greatest area of growth over the next 20 years.  

Of course, I am very proud of all of our accomplishments and at the top of most anyone’s list is the  new state of the art Barkley Regional Airport terminal. Hopefully everyone here has already seen it  and even better, flown out of it. Airports are key factors in economic development for communities  

and ours is no different. You only have to utilize or visit that facility to see how far our community  really has come. In order to grow the airport however, we must continue to improve: operations, the  route options for our passengers, and a more seamless customer experience.  

After being elected I had some very lofty goals in a number of areas. Some have been accomplished  and some of those goals have proved more challenging. I vowed to communicate openly and  frequently and provide more transparency in the dealings of city government. I believe we have  made great progress in this area and we continue to press forward. Just one example of this is our  recent communications about the City Block project. I encountered some hesitation from others  when I mentioned that we needed to publicize the delays on the project. This kind of news always  travels fast but we were determined to keep the community up to date. Transparency can be hard  and at times it is even more difficult but we will continue to press forward in this area.  

I set out from the very beginning of my term to make a difference with the board appointments I  make and I now spend a significant amount of time trying to place the right people on our boards  and commissions. I consider those appointments to be critical to the community’s success. I make  appointments to over 30 boards and people roll off every month. I believe picking the right people to  serve on boards is a critical success factor in the community. We have had great success in  communicating board opportunities to the community and it has generated a great deal of interest.  If you are interested, please raise your hand. I’m sure there is a place where you can truly make a  difference.  

From a community perspective the City has over 330 employees that provide important services to  our citizens. In our form of government those employees report up to the City Manager. One of the  most important things that I do as Mayor is lead the commission in supporting and guiding Daron 

Jordan. Daron brings a great deal of experience to his position and the commission relies on him  heavily. The relationship between him and I is very important and we both treat it that way.  

The experience of City department heads varies greatly. We are fortunate to have a very  experienced and talented Director of Finance in Jon Perkins. I can honestly say that the experience  of Jon and his entire finance team allow all of us to sleep well at night. We also have great  experience with Chris Yarber who runs Public Works as he and his team effectively and efficiently  manage STREET, FACILITY, AND VEHICLE MAINTENANCE, as well as a service that is so critical to  all us SOLID WASTE COLLECTION. Public Safety is a primary function for your city and we are  blessed to have Chief Steve Kyle and Brian Laird running fire and police. I am very proud of the  manner in which our Fire and Police departments keep us safe. You don’t need them until you need  them but when you do, they are always there. Planning, IT, and Parks & Recreation have Directors  who have been placed in their roles more recently and as they have gained valuable experience are  making significant contributions to our success. I am a proponent of a strong Human Resource  team in place to support our employees and managers and I am very proud of the team we have  built there led by Stefanie Wilcox. People are what drive any organization and City employees are  key. We work hard to keep people accountable and encourage and reward those employees that  truly make a difference. Michelle Smolen, Assistant City Manager, new Mom, and one of our key  assets, supports the City Manager and the Directors in a variety of ways and helps ensure an  efficient communication and effective execution of projects among senior leaders. 

The City is always evaluating strategic capital improvement projects. Storm Water has been a hot  topic for some time and any heavy rain disadvantages those who live in more affected areas. Our  storm water infrastructure is aging and will definitely have to be addressed in the future. It has been  one of my personal goals since I took office but has proved to be elusive and expensive.  

And speaking of personal goals, upgrading our 911 system was one of the first goals I set when  taking office and it too has proved to be elusive and expensive. But…we are now on the cusp of  implementation. We have decisions yet to make, not the least of which is funding. But we must  persevere as the cost of a new $10M system as well as the $3M cost to annually operate the system  

by both the City and County (given the loss of funding from landline phones) must be dealt with.  

We are focused on making upgrades to City facilities where it most makes sense. The Robert Cherry  Civic Center is a project that has taken longer than expected but will prove to be a great community  asset once completed this spring. I will admit that one of the things we have NOT done well in the  past is plan for and execute larger capital projects in order to replace aging assets. A couple of  years ago we began setting aside money to be used for these type of future capital expenditures. I  am confident that in just a few years we will be in a better position to fund capital needs like a new  police or fire station.  

Housing will be a much greater focus for this commission going forward. There is a housing  shortage nationwide and Paducah is no exception. We have just scratched the surface with our  plans for the Southside of Paducah and although it is a long project to completion, it shows great  promise. The completion of the Dunlap-Walter Jetton development project in partnership with the  Paducah Symphony Orchestra AND the demolition of the old Continental Hotel turned Residential 

Care Center on Irvin Cobb Drive, have been two catalytic events that have helped jump start the  Southside project. However, there is a need for housing in all categories and price ranges and the  approach by the City going forward will be very aggressive in working with developers, residents,  and landowners to solve this problem. We are looking for developers to partner with. If you are a  developer, or you KNOW of a developer, please send them our way.  

One of the more surprising things to me when I became Mayor was the amount of time required to  be spent on pure social issues. Homelessness, addiction, food insecurity, and mental health, to  name but a few. We see these conditions everyday through our fire and police departments or code  enforcement teams. Paducah is the county seat and a metropolitan area that draws from our 10  surrounding counties. We have over 100,000 people in Paducah on any given day working or  shopping. WE of course WANT more people, more growth, more population…. But more people  bring more challenges.  

I am thankful, and truly honored to have been given the opportunity to lead the City Paducah and I  am most proud of the accomplishments we have made but there is work left to do. Someone asked  me at my Rotary speech if I had goals for the next four years. Yes, I do have goals. I have a vision that  this city grows consistently its population with a goal to eventually cross the 50,000 mark. I have a  vision that the city will grow its housing stock where there are more values for first time home  buyers as well as families looking for attractive values. But most of all I have a vision that we will  drive growth in the jobs available for those who want to enjoy the tremendous culture and cost of  living that we all enjoy. And of course, we all would like to see jobs available for our children and  grandchildren. We must do everything possible to stop the brain drain that results from lack of  opportunities. Job growth, as I mentioned earlier provides the key to most all of the collective goals  we hold for our community and it will continue to be a primary focus.  

Being your Mayor has been by far the most rewarding position of my career. Paducah’s population is  growing again and I am proud to be playing a leadership role in helping maintain and stimulate  further the growth that is occurring. I truly serve each and every citizen of Paducah and of the  broader community. As I had previously publicized, I am running for a 2nd term as your Mayor.  Consistency in leadership is absolutely a critical success factor for any community as long as that  leadership is innovative, hard-working, open to input, and works for the community every day to  make it better. I am qualified in all of those areas and many more… and I look forward to the future  as your Mayor. I pledge to continue to work together with all of you to further unlock the potential of  the community we all know and love. 

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