Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson is not running a marathon or sprint, he’s running a relay race.

That’s how the city’s 108th mayor characterized managing the city, during the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 State of the City and County Luncheon Wednesday.

“Mobile’s place in the race with other cities has been determined by the cumulative actions of all previous mayors, their councils, their city workers, and the desires of their citizens at the time,” he told the crowd at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center. “Additionally, the codes and the laws governing how the city operates have played a crucial role in not only where the city is in competition with other cities, but also, where it is going.”

In his six months holding the “baton” Stimpson said the administration is learning how to build a good working relationship with the city council, learning the capabilities of city employees, defining the city’s problems and measuring the effectiveness of boards and appointees. He added that his office has conducted community meetings and had meetings with local business owners.

“As you might suspect, we’ve found some bright spots, but we’ve also found significant opportunities for improvement,” he said. “We find our city constrained by age-old, ineffective policies and work procedures. If it wasn’t so, we wouldn’t see rivers of trash floating down Dog River, we couldn’t see burned-out homes destroying neighborhood property values, we wouldn’t see construction projects delayed by red tape, and we wouldn’t see as much violent crime.”

Although there are challenges, Stimpson said Mobile is lucky to have a “citizenry so, so ready to be engaged in moving our city from good to great.”
“We can almost taste the excitement,” he said.

The city will continue to be guided by his vision to make Mobile the safest, most business and family friendly city in the country by the year 2020, Stimpson said.

“This vision, fully realized means a better quality of life for everyone in the city, and to our children and grandchildren, who want to return to Mobile,” he said. “Of course we may not all agree with every step we make on our journey, but we can all agree on our destination.”

Stimpson said the city can achieve greatness by following three steps: Growing the city by creating a sustainable, robust and prosperous city, improving the efficiency of city government by doing more with less and winning support for change by engaging our citizens.

Stimpson ended his speech by challenging the business community and residents alike in helping the city to grow current businesses and attracting new ones, improving the educational opportunities for the city’s youth, cleaning up the city’s neighborhoods, rooting out crime and taking greater pride in the historic and culturally rich city.

“The key to winning any race is to never quit running – that’s how the tortoise beat the hare,” Stimpson said. “There are no shortcuts to the finish line. Each of us has the choice right now either to accept the status quo, or start moving toward a better city.”

Mobile County Commission President Connie Hudson highlighted positive aspects of county government during Wednesday’s event.

Hudson told the group that the county was able to close out the fiscal year 2013 budget with a $1.9 million carryover this year.

“We remain very cautious, however, because our current budget has incorporated nearly $5 million of one-time revenues in order to balance,” she said. “So, for the upcoming fiscal year, the county will start its budget process with a requirement for an additional $5 million in revenue sources to cover this potential funding gap.”

She said the county has already implemented one change that should help bridge that gap next year. This year the commission switched insurance providers for employees, which could produce savings as much as $2 million.

Hudson said the county earned two awards last year. The Roadway Safety Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration awarded the public works department its Biennial National Safety award for improving road safety.

The county also earned a regional innovation award for financing road-building projects through partnerships with municipalities.

Hudson said the county’s environmental engineering department obtained a $700,000 grant to sponsor events to help citizens safely dispose of household hazardous waste.

On the recreation front, Hudson announced the completion of a kayak and paddle trail. She also announced moving forward with a project to build 10 soccer fields, a walking trail and picnic areas on a piece of property near the intersection of interstates 10 and 65. The county also is working on baseball fields on property off of Hitt and Schillinger roads adjacent to Westside Park.

“All of these efforts to build infrastructure positively affect our quality of life in Mobile County and make our communities a great place to live and raise a family,” Hudson said. “We know, too, that there is a concrete link between quality of life and jobs growth.”

Chamber CEO Bill Sisson lauded Mobile as a strong business community during the event, and told the group that the diverse economic development portfolio would lead to continued job growth. Sisson said the area has seen 2,872 jobs added and $951 million in investment in the last 18 months.

“We have a lot to be excited about,” Sisson said.