The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt across the community. We have joined all municipalities across the Nation in navigating a crisis unlike we have ever seen before – a crisis that has affected our economy and tested our spirits, even altering our everyday way of life. It has been a time of great sacrifice and uncertainty.
I hope that you know that we care deeply about the community and you as a friend and neighbor.
As I know many of you have, I have lost sleep thinking about the way ahead and courses of action to address the threats to our lives, our health and our happiness. There is no playbook; there is
no instruction manual. We are writing history as we go, constantly working with the topmost priority of caring for and protecting the community. It is always our first duty as civic leaders and publicly elected officials.
This year we have also witnessed social unrest at every corner of the nation. We have joined hearts and minds across the community to collaborate and capitalize on opportunities to strengthen organizational ties and expand lines of communication. These are strenuous times; these are tired times. But together, we can and will identify solutions that will keep the City of Lawton on the path forward.
That is why I stand before you, faith unshaken.
I stand before you inspired and renewed by the resilience of our community.
The generosity and benevolence of Lawtonians has shone bright during this challenging time. We have pulled together to care for our friends in need, maneuver significant change in stride, and remain focused on the longer-range picture of hope and a shared plan for prosperity across our community.
You have made me so proud. And I stand before you, Lawton Proud!
Your performance during such crises reminds me that crisis does not build character but reveals it.
The elected officials before you today, to include myself, did not run for these leadership roles to help our community simply survive.
We, you and I, were not put here to simply survive.
We do not live to simply survive.
As Lawtonians, we live to thrive.
We have never stopped working for improvement and growth in our community. We want to ensure, that even during these challenging times, we do not lose sight of any of the opportunities we have been blessed with.
This last year has been a year in which we have begun to bring to life a shared vision: A vision of the City of Lawton being a city of choice for young families, with improved quality of life amenities, greater efficiencies and high-tech jobs.
Proactive steps such as the passing of the 2020 “PROPEL” CIP in February – which included more than $200 million for critical investment and strategic planning – coupled with the launching of the most comprehensive Industrial TIF Plan in the State, to multiply industrial development and growth, has prepared Lawton for a bright future despite undesirable circumstances we happened upon. We are sure to rebound with revitalized energy working toward our goals.
The PROPEL CIP is aptly named as it is a visionary long-range plan that will PROPEL us to the Future by Pursuing Renewed Opportunity and Projects to Elevate Lawton.
The strength and fortitude of this community and the City of Lawton workforce is remarkable and unparalleled. I must say that I have seen much excitement from the City employees as the ability to plan long term and have the funding identified has become a reality.
We have many accomplishments to celebrate:
You, the citizens, more than doubled the voter turn out from the 2019 City of Lawton Special Election to the 2020 Special Election. Voters approved funding for visionary plans and programs to aid in job recruitment and industrial development, urban beautification, public road and utility systems, as well as City site improvements, and critical investments in the technology transformation of our City. To date, we are working with a company to move forward with a Parks Master Plan, we are laying the organizational foundation for a Blue Ribbon Commission focused on family and youth development, and we are in the design phases for Lee Boulevard reconstruction, expecting work to begin by years end. Even as we speak today, City staff is accelerating the engineering on several street projects that you have authorized. You voted for the projects to be done, and we are going to bring those to you sooner rather than later.
We have seen nearly $1 million worth of in-house asphalt and concrete work, maintenance and upgrades to our city streets. Major projects this past fiscal year have included 17th Street, Gore Boulevard median work, and East Rogers Lane. This has been made possible from operational efficiencies, freeing up funds that could be put to work in our city streets. In my very first conversation with City Manager Michael Cleghorn we discussed our goal of becoming the most efficient city in the state. Increasing organizational efficiencies is something worked toward and accomplished each day, even prior to receiving the Efficiency Study that is soon coming.
Other significant projects completed, or on the verge of completion include: Renovations to Lawton Public Library, reconstruction of SW 52nd and SE 45th Streets, Fire Station 2, rehabilitation of the City Hall roof and publishing of the 2045 Lawton Metropolitan Transportation Plan. We hope to unveil the new Public Safety Facility this fall.
The journey of our digital transformation efforts continues, as we have enhanced communication tools for public servants and community members alike. Upgrades to Microsoft Office 365 and remote desktop are improving operational efficiency. The departmental expansion of the iHelp Lawton reporting system is accelerating the response to citizen reported needs of potholes, street repair and other important issues. The establishment of the CCIP or Citizen’s CIP Portal grants access for citizens to view progress of our CIP projects at any time. Other projects to increase transparency include new audio/visual and recording system for public meetings in Council Chambers and the implementation of body cameras and upgraded patrol car cameras for the Lawton Police Department. E-ticketing is almost here, and this technological enhancement will afford officers more time to fight crime with improved efficiency. We also recently received a demonstration of not only the e-ticketing capability, but also a new CAD system for dispatch that will give public safety officials more information about given homes and neighborhoods when dispatched for calls. I must say once again, the digital transformation is creating excitement throughout the entire City of Lawton.
Education, outreach and community partnerships have flourished in FY 2019/20 and continue to advance today. Be it for mentorship programs, panel discussions, nonprofit support or defined leadership during a time of great civil unrest, elected leadership and City staff have worked diligently to send a message of unity and collaboration. Most recently, we have established the Race Relations Commission and the Citizen’s Advisory Board, which will identify racial barriers, promote city unity and work to provide solutions for change. The “Buy 2, Give 1” initiative, coming to fruition as a result of the Council-approved Healthy Food Retail Task Force in 2019, underlines our commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles and behaviors for citizens, as the City of Lawton is now a 4-time Oklahoma Excellence Certified Healthy Community.
Let’s not forget our very important relationship with the Fires Center of Excellence. Fort Sill is so very important to us. They are truly part of the fabric of this community. It would be short sighted not to recognize our community partners at the Fires Center. Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF) and Air and Missile Defense (AMD) are two of our Army’s most important programs. Our national defense is heavily dependent on these two very important capabilities. That is why the Army’s Cross-Functional Teams for LRPF and AMD are here with us at Lawton Fort Sill. We have the privilege, and the responsibility, to support them. At last year’s State of the City address, I rolled out the idea of an Innovation Park. The development of our Fires Innovation Science and Technology Accelerator, or FISTA Innovation Park is an appropriate response to supporting our Cross-Functional Teams and our national security. This Transformative Innovation Park is made possible by the citizens of Lawton Fort Sill, and the passage of the PROPEL CIP, in which Lawton Fort Sill has designated record funds to job creation with a vision for the future.
We have worked hard for many years to further develop STEM education to support high tech jobs in our community. Finally, we will have the high-tech jobs through the FISTA that will keep our local talent, our young people, here in Lawton Fort Sill. If you have not heard, the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), with sponsorship from the Department of Defense, will be supporting our high schools again this year. This investment by DoD will be linked to our FISTA and magnify STEM capability and STEM opportunity.
So, while this has been a year of casting vision, it has also been a year of action.
Transformation is taking place before our eyes and we are on a new trajectory to the future.
I encourage each of you to remain steadfast and positive. We will survive COVID. We will learn and grow from one another to become an even better city. We will follow our visionary community plan with faith and perseverance. And, we will come out the other side a stronger and a more prosperous community.
I look forward to taking part in shared service to our community. Let’s continue to find ways to contribute and give of ourselves. Our City’s success is contingent upon our willingness to share, to connect, and to advocate for one another. Let’s continue to build up and build upon the place we call home.
As I have said before, I am proud and humbled to be your mayor. Serving you is a great blessing and honor. I hope you will continue to reach out to me and share your thoughts and feelings about the way ahead.
It’s been a long year, but the best is yet to come. Together, we will overcome adversity and ensure a brighter future for Lawton Fort Sill. Together is the only way.
God bless each and every one. God bless our “some kind of wonderful” Lawton Fort Sill. And, God bless America.