Four years ago, as a citizen, I was writing a regular column for this newspaper. They were usually comedic in nature and were commentaries on Hillsboro’s problems. The county coroner’s budget woes. A rant about the 20 mph zone in front of the new high school – where you are far more likely to hit a deer than a student.
The column was called “The Battles of Hastings.” Little did I suspect back then that would be the future description of my first two years in office as mayor.
Those two years were not fun. They were depressing, frustrating, and tested me more than I have ever been tested. What made me stay the course when I wanted to run away were the citizens of Hillsboro.
Mostly, senior citizens. They’d stop me in Kroger and say, “Hang in there, Mayor!” or catch me in Lowe’s – “You’re doing a good job, we appreciate it.” Over and over I heard this.
I will be forever thankful for your words of encouragement.
I am stronger and better equipped as a man and a mayor as a result. And that is where today’s column begins. I am midway through my first term and things are very different now than when I first took office.
The city’s financial picture is promising. We have a new and energized city council that is interested in working together. We have talented people working for the city that can help take us forward. We have business people in town who want to volunteer to help. Heck, we even have anonymous donors giving us $78,000 checks!
We, as a city are poised. Poised to do big things.
But to do that, we need a plan. So, over the next few weeks, I will be meeting with council members and business leaders to get their input.
We will ask ourselves “What do we have? What do we want? How will we get there?”
And in developing this Strategic Plan, we must ask ourselves not just where do we as a city want to be in 5 or 10 years – but, where do we not want to be?
There are people who will say at this point, “Why do we need any kind of plan? What’s wrong with being the town that we’ve always been?”
Because, frankly, things are very different today in America. Globalization has fundamentally changed Midwest cities like Hillsboro. Job opportunities are different. Drug abuse is more firmly rooted in our culture. Young people are leaving. We face problems today that leave seniors and baby boomers like me shaking our heads and wondering, “How the hell did we get to this state of affairs?”
We can debate that all day but right now we have a city to turn around.
So, with input from many of you, we will create a Strategic Plan that will provide direction and inspiration for all of us.
There are a lot of things to consider. For example, The Hobart Drive project will be completed in a couple of years. How do we want to see land use done out there? Where, in Hillsboro do we want to see new industrial sites built?
How best to revitalize uptown? We have a great asset with our uptown. We are luckier than many communities in that we have a clearly defined uptown district. How will we plan for its’ success?
We have code and blight issues. A scourge of drug abuse. We have traffic problems to solve.
I’m here to tell you that we will get them solved. Look around. Hillsboro today looks better than it did two years ago. Our financial picture has changed dramatically for the better.
This year we are improving our police presence. We’re targeting derelict properties. We’re fixing all the bent and aging residential street sign poles and we have many street paving projects planned for 2014.
But I want your help. If you’re a citizen with a good idea I want to hear about it. If you’re a business owner, I want you to get involved. If you’re reading this from out of town and are thinking of starting a business, contact me and I’ll tell you why you should do it here. Contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The year 2014 is all about positive and upward for Hillsboro. Let’s all get there together.
Drew Hastings is mayor of Hillsboro.