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Mayor Holland's "State of the City" Address

Date: March 8, 2018

On Thursday, March 8, Mayor Kevin Holland presented the "State of the City" Address to a meeting of the Friendswood Chamber of Commerce. Here are his remarks:

Thanks for the opportunity to come visit with you every March to share the State of the City, and what a year it has been! All you have to do is look at the Chamber of Commerce to see a case study in Hurricane Harvey damage. The Chamber building, the staff, Board and some of the membership were victimized by Harvey, but they became victorious over Harvey. In so many ways, individuals in our business community exemplified “Friendswood Strong.”

On the residential side, virtually everyone in Friendswood has a story. They had damage, and in some cases complete loss, or they were helping others. What is amazing? Some people fell into both categories.

Young and old. Harris and Galveston Counties. Different faiths. Different backgrounds. They all came together quickly and efficiently to help recover from an unprecedented FIFTY inches of rain.  In my six years as Mayor, the weeks immediately following Harvey and the sustained effort since then may well be Friendswood’s finest.

Did everything go perfectly? No. Are there things that will be done different and better in the future? Absolutely. But that should not overshadow the incredible efforts of City staff, first responders, volunteers, and just plain ordinary folk, who gave it their all to save lives and property. Many of you in this room are part of that Friendswood Strong army. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. But as you will see, over the last 12 months, Friendswood is about more than Harvey.

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After scrubbing the budget, City Council adopted a historically low tax rate. Over the last 39 years, the City's total tax rate has decreased by 20 cents.m Voters chose Sally Branson to be a councilmember, and returned John Scott for a third term. Last month, Friendswood was recognized as the 8th Safest City in Texas and the safest in the Houston area.  Another group ranked us as the 60th safest City in America. The new Kenneth Camp Fire Station 1 was dedicated and put into service. Station 4 upgrades were completed. Lake Friendswood was opened to the public. Last week, a ribbon cutting was held for the new pavilion and restrooms. Centennial Park’s new Basketball Pavilion opened. With Council’s approval, the Friendswood Downtown Economic Development Corporation finished a Pole removal project. Here is before…and after.

Council approved a municipal grant for a completed building, and an incentive grant for a future one. Winding Road and Woodlawn Avenue reconstruction was completed. Replacing the Mandale Bridge is underway. Upgrades to Water and Lift stations were completed. 180 new home permits were issued. The Library hosted more than 33 thousand people for programs, classes….and award winning services. For the 29th consecutive year, the City received awards for financial reporting…and budget presentation. The City recognized its Five Star Spirit Award winning staff members.

We all came together to remember Laura Smither…and the men and women of the armed forces. 

Friendswood’s seniors participated in multiple activities every week. The youth pitched, hit, and ran…and fished with their families. Daddies danced with their daughters. People of all ages gave to the Blue Santa program…enjoyed the Fourth of July…Santa in the Park…and the Flapjack Fun Run. We cleaned up and disposed of stuff at the Spring Sparkle and Fall Hall…and finally, relaxed and enjoyed entertaining movies and concerts in the park. What a year it has been, Friendswood!

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So what do you think the State of the City is? Rebuilding? Growing? Friendswood Strong? All of the above, and one more. Transitioning After six years as Mayor and nine years on the Planning and Zoning Commission, I’ve decided it’s time for a transition. Being in those positions have been opportunities to lead and to be led. The last six months has shown all of us how great a City we have. It has been a pleasure to be part of it. It has been an opportunity to grow in my faith, attempting to live the commands the Apostle Paul gave to the Ephesians: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” As my term comes to an end in May, it allows me to focus more on my family, including my new grandchildren.

So there will be a transition at City Hall. The City will have a new Mayor: either Mike Foreman or Omar Peck. Both are good men. I wish them both well and want them to know that in whatever way is appropriate, I’ll continue to be involved, helping them and serving the community. Since Mike Foreman is giving up his Council Position four seat to run for Mayor, there will be an election to fill the year left in that term. That will be a transition, as two newcomers to City-wide office are on the ballot: Robert Griffon and Brent Erenwert.

There will be transition in the Council Position three seat that has been held by Jim Hill. He’s been there for 12 years, and that’s the term limit. We did some research. Jim has attended more than 160 Council meetings during his time in office. On top of that; countless meetings where he represented the City Council—and this took a little investigation—more than 30 thousand cups of coffee discussing city concerns with residents. Jim and I have worked together. We’ve had times where we disagreed. What I will remember most is that Jim stood for what he believed in, for what he thought was right for Friendswood. Would you join me in thanking him for his service to our community? On the ballot for Jim’s old seat, Council Position three, are Trish Hanks and Philip Ratisseau. To fill his shoes, prepare to drink a lot of coffee.

Rounding out the ballot in the City’s May 5th election is Council Position one. The incumbent is Steve Rockey. The challenger is Michael Wood.  Voters will decide if there will be transition there. Coming soon we have transition in the Mayor’s chair, in council positions, and also transition in the City Manager’s Office. After 29 years with the City, Roger Roecker is retiring next month. More than any person I know in City government, Roger has served with a mixture of responsibility, longevity, respectability, and integrity. His conservative and deliberate style has been the perfect financial and administrative leadership the City has needed for almost three decades. Roger, you are the biggest reason why being Mayor has been so rewarding. And so you know, Roger, we did not tally the number of meetings you have attended or the cups of sweet tea. More than any mayor or councilmember, your influence will have a much greater, long-lasting, positive effect on the City of Friendswood. Thank you!   

Transitioning into the City Manager’s chair is Assistant City Manager Morad Kabiri. Morad came to Friendswood in 2007 as Deputy Director of Community Development and was promoted to Director of Community Development and City Engineer shortly thereafter. In 2012, he became the City’s first Assistant City Manager. The transition from Roger to Morad has been planned for a long time. I’m confident it will go well and that day-to-day, Morad will lead the City with excellence for many years to come.

So the State of the City is in transition. That’s also a good time to examine the course we are on and the obstacles and opportunities ahead. I think we should proactively confront some of the biggest obstacles we have in Friendswood. Two of them are mobility and healthcare. If you’ve lived here for more than a few years, you’ve seen that, while Friendswood has had modest, sustained growth, the population of many of the areas around us has exploded. Because of our central location, people from Pearland, League City and other surrounding cities drive through Friendswood to get to where they are going. We can’t stop that, but we can create alternatives. Already coming up from the south is League City Parkway. Coming toward us from the north is Pearland Parkway. The missing link is Friendswood Parkway, which is a challenge that must be met in the near future.

I mentioned healthcare, and you may wonder why. That seems like a national problem, not a local one. In Friendswood, our healthcare-related opportunity to improve is emergency medical services. When you call 9-1-1 in Friendswood, world-class EMS technicians and equipment respond. It started as a volunteer group, but due to population growth and increased calls for service, the department has shifted to more of a paid operation with fewer volunteer hours. For many people, it is the first contact with the healthcare system. We salute you!

Today, it is provided free. That is an unsustainable economic model. Committees that included volunteers, members of the fire department and EMS, residents, and councilmembers have studied it. Research is ongoing. Soon, there will need to be a plan put forward that continues to serve everyone who needs emergency medical care and also makes financial sense. That’s an opportunity for the new city leadership, both elected and staff.

With both mobility and healthcare, I think it’s in Friendswood’s best interest to develop our own solutions, not wait for the State or Federal government to decide for us. Just as we did with Hurricane Harvey recovery, we need to plan, prepare and then, act smart; not waiting for people in Austin or Washington to show up. 

I believe our state and federal government elected officials and staff at various agencies mean well, and I don’t want to devalue what they do. It is important. But as Friendswood comes out on the other side of the transitions we are now facing, it is up to us to manage local opportunities on the local level.

New Mayor, new Councilmembers, new City staff, it’s on us to be the problem solvers. Our opportunity awaits.

Business leaders, educators, residents…whatever category you fit into, some of this is on you, also. You need to show up to meetings, talk to your elected officials and City Staff. Get the facts. Discuss the possibilities over coffee instead of on social media.

Be part of the opportunity to make Friendswood not only “Friendswood Strong, but Friendswood better. God bless you, and God bless Friendswood.