Outgoing mayors reflect on last four years and look forward to future

BY Jan Murray jmurray@southeastsun.com

  • 1 September 2016
  • Author: Admin Assistant
  • Number of views: 1526
Outgoing mayors reflect on last four years and look forward to future
After serving as members of their town’s city councils and then as mayors for four years, Daleville Mayor Claudia Wigglesworth and Newton Mayor Lehman Irby prepare to leave office in two months, but not without reflecting upon accomplishments and hopes for the future as well as congratulate the incoming mayors.When each mayor was asked what they felt to be their biggest accomplishment during their terms as mayor, both indicated activities in the financial realm plus several other items indicative with a mindset of growth and prosperity for their cities.“When I took the reins as mayor, the town was virtually broke,” said Irby. “There was $14,000 in the general fund—all of the monthly bills were a month behind. After the first six to eight months, we had the bills caught up and were beginning to build some operating capital. As I leave office, four years later, we have well over $200,000 available cash…I never forgot that I had a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens and always strived to provide God-centered accountability of the town's finances.”“I am very proud of the accomplishments of the past four years and thank the city council and employees of the city for their dedication and hard work,” said Wigglesworth. The one-term mayor said she began making way for the new administration immediately after the election results posted Aug. 23. She said she took advantage of a truck and multiple male family members to go ahead and remove all of her personal effects from city hall.The Daleville mayor, along with the city council and various city boards, began many new policies during the last four years, including a formal budgeting process, employee job descriptions, performance evaluations with step raises and the citizen-driven creation of a Comprehensive Plan. The mayor said listening to the public, via surveys, helped guide her and other city officials in all decision-making during the last four years.“They (the citizens) identified the issues and areas that needed improvement and we worked to fix many of the areas, including the appearance of Daleville Avenue,” said Wigglesworth. “Look for changes as the new Zoning Ordinance is enforced… If cleaning up Daleville Avenue continues to be a goal then enforcing the new Zoning Ordinance is a given, especially enforcing paragraph 4.06.02(c) which precludes outdoor merchandise on the street side of Daleville Avenue after May 2018.”Creating job descriptions and all that goes with it, is another point of accomplishment for the city, according to Wigglesworth.“In order to ensure the city is an equal opportunity employer, job descriptions and job classifications were created in 2013, as well as performance plans and performance evaluations,” explained Wigglesworth. “Now, job vacancies may be filled internally before posting publicly at Alabama Career Center and on the city hall bulletin board. Also, pay increases are based on job performance.”The Daleville mayor said citizens had also asked for improvements in the variety of senior services.“Our senior center now provides health programs, fitness programs, crafts, outings and more,” she explained.Irby said that during his tenure, a special grant was received allowing for the purchase of a new van for Newton’s senior center. “We obtained an 80/20 split grant for a new bus for our Senior Citizens Center; our portion of the grant was just over $10,000,” he said.As for public works, both mayors share that improvements were made and equipment gained.“We now have a street inventory to accurately determine priorities for paving,” said Wigglesworth. “Donnell Boulevard and Daleville Avenue were paved and this next year Blackhawk, Skyline and Apache will be paved.”Irby said his town was able to purchase a new tractor for the Street Department and make needed street repairs without taking on new debt.“We had drain pipes under two of our city streets blow out during heavy rains. We were able to replace those pipes and repave that portion of those streets,” said Irby. “All of this was paid for without borrowing money. We were able to pay for it with monies that we had built up in the various accounts.”Wigglesworth also described the ongoing sidewalk additions in the city and a growing active recreational department as major accomplishments, both of which were spawned from the 2014 citizen surveys that ultimately led to the Comprehensive Plan and new Zoning Ordinance.“Two large sidewalk projects were completed (in the last four years) and one is planned for this year,” said Wigglesworth. “The community center is alive and active with more activities than in the past decade, two new playgrounds and a community garden. Culpepper Park ball fields are soon to be a reality.”Both mayors have worked on economic development and both believe in a strong relationship with Fort Rucker.“I have maintained a good working relationship with the Ozark/Dale County Economic Development Group in an attempt to draw more businesses to town,” said Irby. “We have gained a sister unit at Fort Rucker and have fostered a strong relationship with the senior leadership to show that our community supports our soldiers and Ft. Rucker…Community support is vitally important to maintaining the Army's presence at Fort Rucker.Wigglesworth and Irby look forward to the future and wish the new mayors success as they take the reins of their respective cities. But, with that wish, comes some advice.“I would like to see more volunteerism from our citizens. My hope is that Mayor-elect (Bill) Pruett will continue our (the town’s) relationship with Fort Rucker and continue to draw businesses and visitors to our community. I have spoken with the incoming mayor and let him know that I support him and I am available to him should he need me. I am committed to further serving our community in any other capacities,” said Irby.Wigglesworth encourages mayor-elect Jayme Stayton and other incoming officials to continue with a formal budgeting process, an active website and Facebook to keep the citizens informed and adherence to the new zoning ordinance.“The formal budget process should continue as that is the best way to determine spending priorities and how to minimize expenses, especially personnel costs,” explained Wigglesworth. “I believe the next administration is obligated to not only continue with the action items in the Comprehensive Plan, but to review the accomplishments and identify new goals and objectives. The great news is that there will be a large infusion of revenue due to the sales tax received from the purchase of Lakota (helicopter) simulators at the new addition to Warrior Hall (CSC in the industrial park). This large additional revenue will allow the next administration to invest in infrastructure and recreation upgrades.”
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