Saturday, March 31, 2018

Thank You Pleasant Hill, Missouri

Today, I spent a majority of the day down at the city soccer complex helping the Pleasant Hill Soccer Association clean up the mess left from the flooding this past week. I am grateful to the 50+ volunteers that showed up today to get the fields ready for our local teams. Thanks to all of these volunteers, we were able to get the fields in good enough shape - pending anymore rain - that our teams should be able to get back to practice and games as scheduled.

As you all know, the election is coming up on April 3rd - just a few days away. I am not going to be a politician and feed you a bunch of taglines. Today, being out with the community and seeing all of these individuals choosing to take time out of their day to simply serve their community however they could really inspired me. I was reminded why I ran for the City Council and then Mayor in the first place. This position is not about being ‘in charge.’ An elected official's sole job is to be a public servant. That is why I became a Pleasant Hill Parks and Rec employee some 15 years ago, volunteered on the Park Board, and then asked you to allow me to serve you as a Councilman then Mayor.

I am going to ask each of you to go visit Here you will be able to read all about my family and myself. You will also find multiple blogs with information that has been important to me over the last several months. If you don't have time to read all of my posts, please take the time to read these two specifically: ‘Our Walk Counts More Than Our Talk’ and ‘Commitment Made, Commitment Kept’. Unlike any other individual running for this office, I actually go into depth about what our City Council has done over the last two years, and clearly lay out our path forward into the future. You should expect those running for office to give you more than a quote; they should be able to explain to you the ‘how.’ I am proud of what we have accomplished so far and truly look forward to what is coming next.

Beyond the election, I simply want to say thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you over the past 7 years as a Councilman and now as Mayor. It has been an honor that I will cherish the rest of my life.

Regardless if you support me or not, please get out and vote April 3rd. May God bless you and have a Happy Easter. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Commitment Made, Commitment Kept

In my previous post, Our Walk Counts More Than Our Talk, we discussed everything our City Council, city staff, and I have done over the last two years. I am asking for one more term to finish the work we have started. We have laid the foundation for our city to have development growth and to further secure the quality of life we value through infrastructure improvements, ordinance revisions, and park improvements.

As citizens, we should have the expectation that every individual running for office will make clear to you their goals and expectations for when they are elected to serve as your representative. A real strategic look at what they plan to do should be expressed to you honestly. The past two years I have kept the commitments I made when I was first elected, but there is still much that needs to be done to keep us going in the right direction. Some of those items are as follows:

  • Maintain our citizens’ quality of life that we all value.
    • Focus on helping to develop and implement the new Neighborhood Watch programs local volunteers are organizing
    • Continue to seek every opportunity to adequately pay our police officers and provide them proper equipment to maintain our quality law enforcement
    • When discussing any development possibilities; we must take into account the impact on infrastructure, crime rate, city hall staffing, and any other variables to make sure our safety and values are top priorities.
  •  Help our Downtown succeed for decades into the future
    • For several years, our city has taken a back seat to helping our downtown. There is no question, these buildings are privately owned and should remain so going forward. This does not mean our community does not have a vested interest in the success of our Downtown. Our City and Downtown both recently approved and have started the process to implement Main Street Revitalization Program into our community. This program will bring together all the different groups trying to help mold a better Downtown and assist them where needed to work toward one common goal – maintain a priceless and historical Downtown and bring long-term success to those business owners.
  • Improve our infrastructure
    • Finish the Country Club project as promised. This project will repave and add sidewalks/curbs from 7 Highway to Mulberry St.
    • Maintain our strong street overlay budget. We have budgeted $540,000 to our overlay fund for this year and have added an additional Public Works employee to the budget to allow more individuals to help improve our existing infrastructure.
    • Increase our water/sewer budget to address our aging water and sewer lines
    • Continue working with MoDOT on ways to improve traffic flow on 7 Highway. With more houses being built in our community, we must look for opportunities of improvement to manage traffic flow through our town.
  • Create a structured plan for growth
    • Work with our Planning and Zoning committee and fellow citizens to develop a community 2030 plan that will guide our Council in making decisions when developers begin developing our currently undeveloped land
    • Use our newly passed Economic Development Plan to begin a concerted recruiting effort for business that will benefit and fall into accordance with our 2030 strategy as mentioned above
  • Lower/maintain our tax rate
    • Work closely with all governing bodies responsible for the tax burden on our community to prevent any increases to our personal property or sales tax rates
    • Use our new Economic Development Plan to broaden our tax base through commercial growth and/or possible industrial growth to add needed revenue to the city in an effort to reduce our overall sales tax. Although the city receives a small portion of the 9.475% applied to our community(only 2.75%); the city is going to have to be the one to do what we can to find unique ways to lower that burden.
    • We will NOT raise our personal property tax through raising the debt levy. There is no question avoiding this action will result in the city’s budget to remain tight. That being said, I do believe there are opportunities to reduce spending if needed. We are operating at a balanced budget with many great projects moving forward in our community.
  • Grow and maintain our parks
    • Continue working with Missouri State Parks to get the Rock Island Trail off of Cardinal and 58 Highway coming into town and on the actual rail bed as promised
    • Continue developing improved relationships in town with our other local entities, such as the school district, to better optimize our community’s tax base for needs that add value to our quality of life such as recreation through open lines of communication.
  • Create better tools for our citizens to get access to city services, programs, and assets
    • Build a better website with app capability to make for easier access from your phone to pay your water/sewer/trash bill
    • Provide easier access to create work orders for pot holes and other issues
  • Make it easier for our citizens to get stuff done
    • Finish our Unified Development Ordinance which will make it easier for our builders/developers to understand our code, and for future councils to decide on exceptions. This ordinance will also make it easier for you to find exactly what it will take to add a deck onto your house, or to put in a swimming pool as examples.
    • Continue to work with developers with our new policy to identify specific commercial/industrial growth that will benefit our town and keep our quality of life.
    • Work with our local business to find what codes or ordinances are preventing them from doing more business in our town and get them repealed or corrected.
  • In addition, we will continue to work with our fellow citizens seeking any and all ideas and opportunities that can be implemented to benefit our community.

None of what I mentioned can be done by me alone. It is extremely important to me to work hand-in-hand with our City staff, our many boards and committees, our elected City Council, and you, my fellow citizens, to identify the goals of all for the community – develop a plan for the Council to focus on – and implement said plan going forward. Curveballs will come across our plate, I’m sure. I have all the confidence in the world that our City is prepared to handle anything that comes our way. When I make a commitment to you, I promise to keep that commitment.
I am proud to be from and the Mayor of Pleasant Hill, Missouri. Excited is an understatement when I think about our future, and I am asking you for one more term to allow the Council and I to finish the many projects we have started. We are on the right path, and I hope you will allow me to continue to be a part of the journey.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Our Walk Counts More Than Our Talk

Being the Mayor of Pleasant Hill is such a privilege. Representing you to the City, helping our employees succeed, and working with the other local leaders in our State is a very unique opportunity that I do not take lightly. I have been an elected official now for 7 years in our City, but the last two years have been the best of which I have been a part. Our current Council and staff bring a diverse set of talents, experiences, and perspectives that together produce positive discussion on our community’s future.
It is key to work as a team, to communicate with your Council, and to provide as much information as possible to the community. We have been able to accomplish so much in a short period of time because we work together with the community to reach the goals we all share. Some of the tasks we’ve accomplished since April 2016 are:
  • Created our community’s 1st real Economic Development Policy.
    • We are now working with our builders and developers to gain perspective as to what their needs are to be successful, then translating that into policy.
  • After hearing a multitude of issues, we chose to change trash services.
    • This change resulted in a better, more accountable contract with a quality provider.
  • Began collaboration on a strategic development plan
    • This Strategic Development Plan will outline what zoning and development should look like in our undeveloped areas.
  • Opened the Rock Island State Park
    • We continue to meet with the Director of the Rock Island Trail and the Department of State Parks to ensure this trail gets finished on the existing trail bed and off of the highway as promised.
  • Opened the new MoPAC SingleTrack Trail at the City Lake
    • This project was constructed by many unbelievably gracious volunteer community members.
  • Received a grant to finish the MoPAC Trail to the City Lake.
    • Received final approval in February for the path of the trail and hope to begin construction this summer.
  • Raised our starting Police Officer pay and supplied them with better city provided equipment.
    • This goes without saying, but our law enforcement is due our thanks and much more. They are and should always be a top priority.
  • We hired several new City Hall staff.
    • City Administrator, Shawn Henessee
    • City Clerk, Jessica Elliot
    • Public Works Director by promoting Josh Alig
  • Expanded Oats services through a grant
    • Our citizens that use this service are a valuable group of our community. Expanding Oats services allows more local citizens to have access to local businesses, meeting their needs and reinvesting back into our local economy.
  • Stopped further tax increases to personal property through the debt levy.
    • Some might have you think increasing the debt levy is a good idea. Increasing the debt levy would add to your burden as a citizen and our local businesses by increasing your personal property taxes. There is no good reason that I can see for local government to take more money out of the pockets of our citizens and businesses at this time. We have a balanced budget, and will continue to as long as I am mayor. Our budget will continue to be tight until our full debt is paid (specifically the bonds passed in 2006 which will be paid in full by 2026), but that is how anyone that is fiscally responsible handles their finances when they go into debt.
  • 2016 FBI statistics placed our community as the 3rd safest City in the State of Missouri.
  • Developed better relationships with our State House and Senate
    • Staying in communication with our other government leaders gives our city the advantage and ability to stay in front of issues concerning our City and citizens
  • Developed better relationship with the School District.
    • Having open lines of communication with other community leaders means the city perspective is proactively considered early in plans of future needs instead of reacting to issues too far down the timeline.
  • Approved plans to completely rebuild Country Club from 7 Highway to Mulberry.
    • Project will begin this Spring, and we are beyond ready to get this going!
  • Held our community’s first public State of the City event.
    • Communication with and involvement of our citizens is VITAL. We are here to serve you, and your feedback is not only welcome, but necessary for Pleasant Hill to prosper.
  • Reviewed our codes to better align them with state statute.
    • We have improved our roofing, grass, nuisance, and mobile home codes.
  • Currently in the process of rewriting our entire code and develop a Unified Development Ordinance.
    • Over time, new codes get updated, added, and/or removed – our codes became outdated without having leaders that took time to review them consistently. You deserve better, and we’re working to ensure our community is up to date, with relevant and value-added codes for future growth and development. We will work with our local builders, developers, and citizens to make sure this process goes smoothly and we get it as right as possible the first time.
  • Designed a new Community Recreation Center, decided this is a project for future implementation
    • This is an example of being in-tune with our community. We heard you, the many of you that posted and voiced your thoughts on the need for a Community Recreation Center. Unfortunately, we do not feel now is the time to ask citizens for an increase in taxes. We’ve done work and now plans are ready for future Councils to hit the ground running when the time is right in the community.
  • Started preparations to become a Tree City USA city.
  • Continued our focus on improving our community's infrastructure.
    • Kept our budget commitment to put more funds towards our Public Works Department to continue fixing our roads, sewer, and water. Currently, we are working on a strategy to address our aging infrastructure on a larger scale to save money in the long run. Our water infrastructure is in need of updates, we are already checking out how we can handle this in the most fiscally responsible way.
  • Plus handled a variety of citizen concerns along the way
    • These are the most important. It is one of my greatest joys hearing from all of you. I love that you all hold me, and the other community leaders, accountable at all times. That is exactly how it should be. I do this for my state level leaders. It makes me so proud to see that you all care. I ask that, whether I am mayor or not, you all continue to get involved. Take time to come to a meeting. Say hello to your council members and mayor when you see them out, their families as well. We are here to serve. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve you.
None of this was done by me alone. In most cases, it was accomplished by our staff and Council working together for you. Our City staff, our many boards and committees, our City Council, and you, the citizens, are a pleasure to work with. If successful this April 3rd, there will be much more work to do. In my next blog post, I will discuss our upcoming goals for the Council.

I am proud to be from and the Mayor of Pleasant Hill. Excited is an understatement when I think about our future, and I am asking you for one more term to allow the Council and I to finish the many projects we have started. We are on the right path, and I hope you will allow me to continue to be a part of the journey.

It Has Been an Honor

I started my first job with the city of Pleasant Hill as a laborer in the Parks and Recreation Department. I painted lines on baseball fie...