The State of the City address delivered by Alma Mayor Jerry Martin Thursday night included a call for citizens and business leaders alike to join in the process of advancing the new administration’s goal of making Alma a better place to live and work.
The address was presented as the last item on the city council’s agenda at its monthly meeting. After thanking several people who had made his first 52 days in office a little easier, Martin talked of plans that included new events for the city and the revitalization of some plans that had ground to a halt before encouraging participation in making the whole process work to the good for the future of the city and its residents.
“There was no getting my feet wet, I jumped in and when I did I jumped right into the deep end,” Martin said of the start of his first term as mayor. “The good thing is I’m a strong swimmer so that’s OK. And more importantly, I have some really good people around me.”
He called City Clerk Wayne Beck and administrative staff members Destiny Brockett and Brooklyne Lunsford “my lifeguards.” He said he is also “very blessed to have the best department heads anyone could ask for,” adding, “They are very quick to offer their assistance. All of our departments are very well run.”
Martin said he’s seen how the city has benefited from the work of individuals like Marilyn Sneed, who is directing the work of the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We have witnessed our chamber grow since she took it and started to run with it,” he said. “It’s just been amazing to see what she’s done with it. Her work for our Kickstart program is unmatched and her ideas for community development are nothing short of amazing. We will as a city benefit and grow because of all the things Marilyn has done for our chamber.”
Martin said he’s also excited to see not only the improvements currently underway in the city, but also the plans for projects that should be starting in the near future.
“There’s a sense of excitement throughout our community and rightly so,” he said. “We have some major road projects underway that, once completed, will bring great improvements to our infrastructure. The streetscape project is about to begin and we’ll have over $2 million of improvements to our downtown, which will include a pocket park and safe zone for our kids.”
He also pointed to a new city park and dog park that will be “something totally unique to this region.”
The mayor also unveiled some details of a new Fourth of July celebration to take place this summer.
“We’re going to grow our Fourth of July fireworks into the city’s first annual Alma Liberty Festival capped by the Mayor’s Fireworks Display,” he said. “It will be an all-day festival on Saturday, July 6, with tons of family-friendly events, inflatables, a dunk tank, music and even a tug o’war contest between our police and fire departments. Thanks to Alma’s Advertising and Promotion Commission it will be the biggest display Alma has ever had.”
While he does see a lot of fun and good times in the city’s future, he knows there’s a lot of work ahead of all involved if those goals of a brighter, more productive future are to be realized.
“Although there are many reasons to be excited, we also understand that tonight we work,” he said. “Tonight, tomorrow, the next day we work and we must continue to work because our city’s future will be set by those coming together to build community and create opportunity, not by those who set out to interfere and take away from all the good.”
He continued, “We work because we must continue to build our infrastructure so to push forward in economic development. We work to expand our revenue base so we might be able to invest in quality-of-life improvements.”
Martin said he believes the residents will have to be involved in the work if the city is to be successful.
“I have based my initiatives on community-driven projects because I know this is the only way for true growth and continued community development,” he said. “I have based my initiatives on economic development, on what will benefit our city as a whole and leave us moving forward.”
He also feels that working on a regional scale will benefit Alma - “I will continue working with leaders throughout our region so that our region will grow and prosper which, in turn, will benefit Alma,” he said - but knows that the majority of the work will have to take place on the local level, which is where the city council comes into focus.
“With the help of our city council we will continue to invest our resources wisely as a city and continue to implement transparency,” he said. “We have an outstanding city council and a community full of wonderful men and women and together we will work for a better future for our home of Alma.”
After the meeting Martin said even though he’s never been one for preparing speeches, putting together the State of the City address helped him focus on his goals for the city.
“It’s good because when you have to do something like that it truly makes you sit back and reflect on what you’ve done, where you’re going, what some of the problems are that need to be addressed and to make sure you’re addressing those problems,” he said. “And it gives you a chance to make sure everybody’s in the same boat and rowing the same direction.”
He said while everyone realizes there’s much work to be done, there is a sense of excitement when looking to the city’s future.
“We have our work cut out for us. We have a lot of things that we need to work on – but it’s exciting,” he said. “Everything that is in front of us is achievable and there truly is a sense of excitement throughout the community right now, and so we can try to harvest that and take it and use it to grow … it’s one bite at a time. You focus on something small and you make it work. Then you focus on something else. Then small project after small project after small project turns into something big and that’s what we’re after.”