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Mayor Tom Tomzak's op-ed column about gains by City Council and City Hall since 2004
Participants in the Marine Corps Historic Half race run along extended Cowan Boulevard.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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WHAT a difference eight years and great teamwork can make!
In 2004, Fredericksburg City Council and City Hall were in turmoil. Maury School still stood vacant, and the council was divided on its future. The idea of attracting a boutique hotel to downtown Fredericksburg couldn't get traction. The Rappahannock River conservation easement faced stiff opposition. Despite 50 years of urging by community leaders, the city didn't have a public swimming pool.
My recent decision to retire in June after serving two terms as Fredericksburg's mayor has prompted me to think about the challenges faced by our city in 2004 and the successes achieved since then. It can be hoped that there have been lessons learned that will benefit the next mayor and City Council.
In 2004, the local, state, and national economies were booming. Only four short years later, we were thrust into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Despite these ups and downs, City Council has, for the most part, worked as a team. Yes, there have been honest differences of opinion among us--and that's healthy--but early on, we created a roadmap for city's future--the Comprehensive Plan of 2007--and we have earnestly worked to move forward.
As you read about the city's many capital projects, economic development strategies, and quality of life initiatives from the past eight years, please keep in mind that, unlike some other Virginia localities, Fredericksburg has done all this while maintaining its coveted AA bond rating. Despite reduced federal and state support, we have kept real estate tax rates down and maintained basic services. This is a result of City Council's fiscal conservatism, a few lucky breaks in the local economy, and city staff's dedication.
I believe that one of a mayor's most important jobs is to encourage members of the council to work together. When this happens, things get done. In the past eight years, City Council has gotten a lot of things done.
Numerous capital improvement projects have changed the landscape and delivery of public services to city residents. In some cases these projects were initiated by previous councils and completed in recent years. They include:
The city's first downtown parking garage, a key to attracting the Marriott Courtyard hotel.