Mayor Ron Anders delivered his third annual State of the City address Monday night, reflecting on the City's progress, successes and challenges from the past year, ending with a vision for a bright future.
Anders’ speech, held in the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center, hit on several topics, including growth, construction projects, the City's response to the pandemic and education. Anders also delivered the City's Lamplighter Awards.
Anders spoke about the pandemic and praised the community and its efforts to vaccinate residents. He mentioned the COVID-19 Community Vaccination Clinic which distributed more than 90,000 vaccines in four months.
“The vaccine is helping our businesses stay open and our people stay healthy and recover quickly,” Anders said.
Other efforts to distribute the vaccine included transforming the old Tuesday Morning into a vaccination clinic. Anders said the City was able to cover the cost of rent for the space.
“I want to thank those involved for their immediate willingness to get the facility ready with such a narrow time frame,” he said.
Anders went on to speak about the Auburn 2040 project, a community-wide planning initiative made up of eight community teams that meet and research and discuss the future of the city. Auburn 2040 was put on hold out of pandemic precautions in August.
“I heard you when you told me you were still uncomfortable with being in large groups in close quarters,” Anders said. “Believe me, no one is more anxious than I am to get [Auburn 2040] moving again.”
Anders said the plan will take time and thanked small business owners for fighting to keep their doors open despite struggles with the pandemic, labor shortages and product supply challenges.
“I know you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again,” Anders said. “Small businesses are the backbone of Auburn. They are a vital part of our community.”
In addition to supporting small businesses, Anders mentioned Auburn City Schools as a success story within the pandemic, citing various academic and extracurricular achievements by students and staff. This year, Auburn City Schools reached a record enrollment of over 9,000 students.
Anders praised the City’s efforts to keep students in in-person classes unlike other schools across the country. He said the City made funding schools a priority, including significant contributions from the general fund and “ad valorem revenue from the Special Five Mill Tax Fund to support recent debt service for school projects.
“As long as I’m mayor, I am all in for Auburn City Schools because supporting our schools means supporting our future,” Anders said.
City Growth and Construction
Anders reported that Auburn is now the seventh-largest city in Alabama according to the 2020 Census. Many people want to be in Auburn and with that, more and more construction projects have taken place to grow and improve the City, he said. In the past year alone, City staff issued 1,300 permits for residential and commercial projects, worth a total value of $410 million, he said.
“There are many reasons families, young people and retirees come here or return here,” Anders said. “But no matter if you’ve lived here 80 years or one day, I know our City serves you well through our departments and dedicated staff.”
Anders went on to praise the various departments of the City, including the Public Works Department, Environmental Services Department, Engineering Services Department and the Auburn FixIt app which allows residents to engage with City staff, file reports and request City services.
Anders said the City spent over $24 million on capital improvement projects and took time to thank the Finance Department's efforts to budget conservatively. He further praised the Parks and Recreation Department for the new 13-acre park, soccer complex and the construction of an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant playground at Town Creek Park.
Anders listed a few other projects currently underway: The construction of a new Publix in downtown Auburn, the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center and the City’s efforts toward becoming more pedestrian-friendly.
Changes in Leadership
Anders noted Auburn University’s role in the community, acknowledging the importance of the City’s partnership with the University and the coming departure of President Jay Gogue.
“Jay and his wife, Susie, are pillars in the Auburn community and have dedicated decades of their lives to serving the Auburn we know and love,” Anders said.
Anders made note of the City’s own leadership change at the city manager position. He recognized former City Manager Jim Buston and his efforts in leading City operations and praised current City Manager Megan Crouch’s experience and work ethic.
“As much as I consider myself a champion for Auburn, our new City Manager Megan Crouch gives me a run for my money,” he said.
The State of the City Address concluded with the presentation of the Lamplighter Awards which signifies the "light that [each recipient] shines in our community.”
The Lamplighter was awarded to six recipients:
- Pat Giddens, longtime employee of J&M Bookstore
- Glen Gulledge, owner of Byron’s Smokehouse
- LaDextric Oliver, physical education teacher at Wrights Mill Road Elementary and Auburn High coach
- Janie Price, member of Auburn Methodist Church who created Park and Pray
- Nolan Tolbert, pastor and Auburn Housing Board member
- Greg Williams, head coach of Auburn University’s equestrian team
“We have hope that the best for Auburn is yet to come,” Anders said.
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