Earlier this week, Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead formally announced his intention to seek re-election to the city's top position. In a statement released by Craighead, the text of which follows, the incumbent mayor compares the state of the city when he was first elected in 2008 to present-day and casts an eye on future projects.
"It has always been my goal as mayor to insure that our next generation's future is built on a solid foundation. As a husband, father and grandfather, I understand the importance of living in a community that provides the right opportunities for our children's future.
"During the last eight years, we as a city have seen the ups and downs of a very turbulent economy. Due to the recession which started in late 2008, we saw needed revenues disappear which put many projects on hold and made it very difficult to even replace necessary equipment and vehicles to maintain a constant level of service for the community. During this time, we experienced an official unemployment rate of 10 percent; but as well all know that was an underestimate of the true effect the economy had on our residents and the city.
"The first four years of this administration, we made the necessary budget adjustments to insure we stayed in the black. We did this by freezing over $1.2 million in proposed expenditures during my first month in office. The next year, we reduced our general fund budget by over $2.5 million to insure a balanced budget. We as an administration have been able to deliver a budget which has stayed out of the red for eight years while services have improved or remained constant for our citizens, with fewer employees.
"I have implemented improvements in efficiency at City Hall and other operations of the city over the last eight years. This has resulted in a financially strong city, which now has a Moody Rating of AA2. Please go to www.CraigheadforMayor.com to read this official report. A prime example of the efficiencies installed these past years is the reduction in the number of full-time employees working for the City of Lebanon today as opposed to in 2000. We are serving over 12,000 more people (2000-2015) with 2.9 percent less full-time employees.
"Another prime example of addressing hard issues head on is the ever-increasing cost of health insurance. While many government and private employers were experiencing 20 percent to 35 percent increases in health care cost, the city has been able to make changes in what was offered to the employees while still providing quality health care benefits. These changes have resulted in three years of savings to the City of Lebanon, which has resulted in a savings in excess of $1.6 million yearly compared to costs in 2013.
"Today, sales tax and other revenues are higher than ever recorded in our history. Unemployment last month was at 3.1 percent. More people and businesses want to call Lebanon their home.
"Over the last eight years, we have aggressively recruited new retail, restaurants, hotels and industrial businesses to Lebanon and Wilson County. These efforts have resulted in a major reversal of what we experienced in previous recession years.
"Creating jobs was key to our turn around. From 2014 to present, Lebanon and Wilson County have experienced over a dozen major industrial businesses and numerous local expansions, which has helped create a projected 3,120 new jobs with a dollar investment of close to $500 million. (Some are: Under Armour, Federal Express, B&G Foods, Softer, Sure Can, TecnoTiles, Ozburn-Hessey, Maplehurst Bakery, Optoro and Wonder Porcelain).
"I'm very proud to have been able to help play a major role in helping to facilitate these businesses locating to Lebanon and Wilson County. I especially look forward to several more coming announcements, both industrial and retail.
"I believe there is still more to be done to achieve a greater economic impact and improving efficiency of operations. We are constantly moving forward in a positive direction by aggressively making contacts and making new friends who are very interested in locating their retail operations in Lebanon. One big game-changing aspect for future recruitment of new stores and restaurants to Lebanon was the initiative of the census just completed which resulted in a major increase in our population, now 32,732. This showed an increase of over 6,500 residents from the 2010 census, which will result in a dollar increase for the city from State Shared Revenues of over $800,000 at no additional cost to our citizens. With the increase in jobs and population, the home and land values have increased tremendously which helps every landowner.
"I have enjoyed these past eight years. I appreciate the opportunity the citizens of Lebanon have afforded me in being able to be a part of preparing this city for future generations. The goal for me is to develop a city that our children want to live, work and play in. It is selfish, but that way we can keep the grandchildren close.
"I ask for your support so I can see through the projects that are underway and which are changing our city for the better: Highway 109 Fire Hall, Legends Drive road expansion, gasification project, pet park, airport terminal, solar energy project, animal control facility and a new advanced manufacturing industrial park.
"With a population of over 32,732 and being able to show a continuing strong growth pattern, Lebanon becomes more attractive to the retail industry. We have ample areas for retail growth, which includes Legends Drive, Hartmann Drive, Highway 70 West, Watertown Exit and Highway 109, which will become desirable future locations for hotels, restaurants and retail stores.