As I complete my first 100 days in elected office as the Paducah Mayor, I wanted to share my reflections with our citizens. Coming out of a very hectic time with an admittedly steep learning curve, my feelings primarily are of pride and hope for the city of Paducah. I am confident that with hard work, thoughtful planning, commitment to success, and sufficient time to execute, we will overcome many of our challenges. It’s never easy being an elected official because you are always balancing the will of what some people believe is the right thing to do with the information you receive that leads you down a different path. In short, you can never please everyone and in a city the size of Paducah, where you personally know many constituents personally, it can certainly make it challenging. Additionally, leading the city during a pandemic has added challenges we have never experienced before. However, I have great confidence in the future, as it is already apparent that as we emerge from the pandemic, opportunity will abound. As a city, we will focus on taking advantage of those opportunities.
I believe strongly that we made the right decision to cancel any more work on the Wellness Center even though it meant a significant sunk cost for the City. This unanimous decision by the new Commission at our very first meeting demonstrated our commitment to be fiscally responsible and set the city up to be able to provide funding for other more needed projects. The Commission then, in an open meeting that was full of candid interchange, determined that there are 12 priorities that we are focused on. You can follow our progress on these 12 priorities, by going to the city’s website. Those priorities include partnering with McCracken County on two important community projects. Helping fund the local share of the new Barkley Regional Airport terminal and supporting the County in our community’s quest to build a state-of-the-art Outdoor Sports Complex. I call out these two collaborative projects with the county because I believe that the relationship between the City and County is critical to the long-term growth of our community. I talk with Judge Craig Clymer frequently and prioritize our relationship as one of the most important that I am responsible for.
There are other priorities among the 12 including two that will require long term commitments: the southside redevelopment/improvement plan and a long-term Stormwater mitigation plan. I call out these two projects because they will require long term commitment from both the City and our citizens. In both projects, citizen understanding, engagement, and commitment will be critically important. First, we are rebranding the southside redevelopment project to the Southside Region Redevelopment Plan because the area is so large that we will need to take different approaches among the various neighborhoods on the southside. Each neighborhood acts differently, has different requirements for success, and does not want to lose their identity. In addition, and most importantly, commercial activity and job creation will be critical to our success. It is clear that the approach we take with the southside business community will play an important role in our long-term success for this project.
Much has been written and discussed concerning the city’s aging stormwater infrastructure. As it relates to a stormwater mitigation plan, we have already paid a very qualified firm to lay out a plan, and that plan will require funding. Whether you believe it is due to climate change or not, it is clear that rain events have become larger and more frequent over the last few years. It is important to note that the two largest and most expensive portions of the proposed stormwater plan are in the Baptist Hospital and California Court areas of the city. These areas flood easily in heavier rains; yet, many homes in the city, mine included, never experience flooding. I personally believe we have an obligation to future generations to address this issue, but it will require good planning, persistence, and political will. Here at the city, we will soon go through a budgeting process. This will allow us to get a better feel for exactly where possible changes in the allocation of funds could occur. My early belief is that the stormwater utility recommendation is valid even if financial contributions are required from taxpayers. One thing for all of us to keep in mind: the city itself, our businesses, and residents can all help each other by keeping ditches and storm drains cleaned out. While the city cannot come onto private property to clean out debris, we are committed to do our part whenever possible. But again, these are only short-term fixes, and long-term mitigation will require a significant investment.
None of this will be easy and I hope you will follow the Commission’s progress on all of our 12 priorities. In addition to visiting the City’s website to get updates, I invite you to attend or watch our commission meetings twice/month. We have begun to make changes in city communications that is intended to better demonstrate openness and transparency. We are being much more intentional in the way we communicate. We hope you will see the difference. Our first two Southside Region meetings were eye popping for all of us, but I believe were a good demonstration of this Commission’s commitment to listen. Attendees were passionate and candid about what they believe needs to be addressed on the southside and in their neighborhoods. The city is now hard at work following up on the work laid out for us at those meetings.
Economic development and job growth are the lifeblood of our city. The 12 Commission priorities once executed will certainly make an impact. However, long term job growth will mostly occur from local companies adding jobs or new companies relocating or starting operations here. The Greater Paducah Economic Development organization (GPED) is the primary vehicle where the responsibility for job growth lies. As Mayor, I just became Chairman of the newly formed Industrial Development Association and sit on the board of directors of GPED. In addition, we have an economic development specialist on staff here at the City. Moving forward, one of my primary objectives is to contribute to the success of the IDA and GPED as well as sharpen our focus on economic development within the city itself, with the ultimate goal of stimulating job growth.
And finally, as Mayor, I like and deeply respect each of the four Commissioners. Each of them brings a different background and talent to this Board of Commissioners. They bring experience in different areas, and I highly value each of their contributions. At this early stage, I am excited about what we can accomplish as a Board. There is much work left to be done, but I am very excited about the prospects for our great city. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.
Mayor George P. Bray