To the Citizens of Suffolk:
As 2018 comes to a close, the members of the Suffolk City Council want to take a moment to extend our hopes that you and your family have enjoyed a Happy Holiday Season, as well as share our reflections as we end what has again been a significant year for our City.
Our goal, as with any City, is to ensure a proper stewardship of resources and funds with the overall goal of making Suffolk a better place for all of our citizens. As Mayor, it’s my duty to look to the future…to find balance. Every decision, every investment has been made with an eye to the future. Not just creating a strong economy for the present, but building the foundation we want for our children and future generations.
We are a growing City, and so too are our needs, but we’ve made it a priority to keep our financial house in order. We’re on the cusp of receiving our third AAA rating; we’re a blue chip stock in the municipal marketplace; and we’ve invested wisely while demanding the very best for our City.
Our commitment to our schools has never been stronger. In fact, local funding for public education has increased by more than $10 million dollars in the last six years. We recently invested more than $60 million dollars to building two new schools which opened this fall: the Colonel Fred Cherry Middle School and the Florence Bowser Elementary School.
Public Safety is essential for a community’s quality of life, and it’s one of the first things people look at in judging a City. We’re committed to ensuring that our personnel have the necessary tools, equipment, and technology to keep our growing City safe.
True public safety requires collaboration between law enforcement and the community, and nowhere is that partnership more evident and embraced than our national award winning National Night Out celebrations. For the 5thtime in ten years, the City of Suffolk’s National Night Out event was named best in the nation among communities with a population of 50,000 to 100,000 residents by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), making this the 13thstraight year we’ve placed in the Top 5 in the nation. The event puts a face behind the badges, uniforms, helmets and turnout gear and personalizes these heroes – especially with our youth – as they continue to build relationships and connect within the communities they serve.
A new vision for the core City – the Suffolk Downtown Master Plan – was adopted after input from citizens, business and property owners, local leaders and City staff with a focus on key strategies for bringing new life to downtown. Improved entertainment options, support for new business growth and educational opportunities, reuse of underutilized properties, and new public spaces are all part of the plan to continue the revitalization of downtown. We’ll soon start seeing enhancements to gateways and streetscapes and a more pedestrian friendly and welcoming atmosphere, all essential components of the plan’s success.
Entertainment options like concerts and community gatherings in the heart of downtown, Library Square as the anchor of a new active public space on West Washington Street, a new mixed-use residential and historic reuse project on East Washington Street, and the official designation of a creative arts district will contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of our downtown, making it a true destination for citizens and visitors alike.
The word ‘destination’ of course leads me to transportation, and as the Vice Chair of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, I’m extremely vocal about not only the needs of my City, but of the entire region. I know that an important aspect of our quality of life is our dependence on our ability to get from place to place, and we work together on the commission to power the projects planned and prioritized to not only move projects forward, but most importantly, to keep Hampton Roads and our economy moving.
City Staff are also aggressively seeking out other funding opportunities to invest in our infrastructure, and we’ve been successful in leveraging local dollars to obtain significant State and Federal funding for transportation projects totaling over $58.5 million dollars in 2017 alone.
Our quality of life is also vastly impacted by our Libraries, with more and more people choosing to spend their time enjoying the multitude of classes, workshops, and family-oriented events offered by Suffolk’s local, state, and nationally recognized award winning Public Library.
Today’s Libraries aren’t the places we remember from our childhoods, as they’re truly inspiring places that promote imagination and information and help people connect to one another. Libraries change lives for the better, and with our Downtown Master Plan’s aforementioned planned Library Square with a new, state-of-the-art facility, we’ll continue to open up windows to the world that inspire us to explore and achieve.
State-of-the-art is also an apt description of the ever-expanding healthcare options available to our citizens. Our fast-growing population is driving the need for recently announced expansions which will benefit our health now and for future generations.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, we’ve recorded a steady population increase every year since 2012, and we’re the only locality in Hampton Roads projected to grow ten percent or more in each decade between 2000 and 2040, according to the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
Growing communities are places where people want to work, live, and raise their families, and it is our responsibility to continue to ensure that our community is well- planned and meeting the increasing need for housing and recreational opportunities. Just last fall Suffolk Parks & Recreation joined the ranks of elite agencies across the country by earning accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies and the National Recreation and Park Association. We continue to make significant investments and have enhanced our recreational opportunities as we fully understanding their power to transform our daily lives.
When it comes to economic development, Suffolk attracts a diverse mix of industries thanks to our prime Mid-Atlantic location, room for expansion and pro-business climate. Each year brings a host of new businesses who opt to establish roots in Suffolk because they are confident that it is the smartest growth strategy for them, and 2018 was no different.
We’re a big City presenting big opportunities, including the 55-acre mixed-use development off of Interstate 664 called The Point at Harbour View. This site also serves as the gateway to the amazing 300-acre former Tidewater Community College site that sits on the James River, with the City of Suffolk a partner with the TCC Real Estate Foundation in this extraordinary, one-of-a-kind opportunity for development. In fact, we’ve provided funding which will protect 1.3 miles of irreplaceable shoreline for a future public space that will span the length of the entire waterfront.
The New Year brings new opportunities to continue to build for a future on the basis of strong leadership, efficient planning and solid financial standing. In closing, my fellow Council members and I share a common goal in that we are united in purpose to deliver the very best service in 2019 to our citizens. May the New Year bring new hopes, new opportunities and new reasons to celebrate!
Mayor Linda T. Johnson
Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, Cypress Borough
Council Member Curtis R. Milteer, Sr., Whaleyville Borough
Council Member Donald Goldberg, Suffolk Borough
Council Member Tim Johnson, Holy Neck Borough
Council Member Michael D. Duman, Chuckatuck Borough
Council Member Roger W. Fawcett, Sleepy Hole Borough
Council Member Lue R. Ward, Jr., Nansemond Borough