Mayor paints ‘strong’ portrait

Published 10:57 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mayor Linda T. Johnson, right, talks with former Mayor Andy Damiani, left, and Bobbie Chapman after delivering her State of the City speech.

Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson painted a portrait of a progressing city in her 2012 State of the City speech on Tuesday.

The final event in the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce series drew a record crowd, organizers said. Business owners, government officials and others from throughout the region turned out to hear the mayor’s portrayal of the city.

“I submit to you that the state of the city is strong and growing stronger every day,” Johnson said. “I look forward to helping create the masterpiece that will be entitled, ‘Suffolk.’”

Email newsletter signup

Johnson touted economic growth, financial responsibility, educational opportunity, housing diversity, public safety, recreational options and more during her speech.

“In Suffolk, we will continue to do those things that have painted a portrait of progress,” she said.

She lauded the 47 new or expanding companies that located within the city in 2011, which created 980 new jobs and brought about $103 million in capital investment.

However, in an allusion to the issue of tolls, she cautioned that the region cannot continue to grow without a dedicated funding source for transportation.

“We need to come together as a region to send a strong message that our region cannot grow if our people and our products cannot move,” she said. “We must act now.”

Johnson also said the city has been fiscally responsible in trying economic times.

“Our most basic responsibility is to be accountable to taxpayers on how their dollars are spent,” she said. “It’s no secret we’ve had to make some difficult choices. We are a lean government that works smarter.”

“People use the phrase ‘in these economic times’ as an excuse to pull back,” she added. “But this philosophy is backwards. “In these economic times, that is when you have to put money into things that are going to grow your economy.”

But, she continued, not everything is about finances. She also recognized recreational options, including the new YMCA Camp Arrowhead on Kenyon Road; business leaders who are making a difference in the community, such as Alison Dodson Anderson, owner of A. Dodson’s on Bridge Road, who offers her customers the opportunity to give money to charity through purchases at her store; public safety trends, including the downward trend of fire department response times; and more.

In the realm of education, a video highlighted Suffolk Teacher of the Year Keysha Thomas, and Johnson thanked Superintendent Deran Whitney and the School Board members for working with City Council during the recent budget process.

“It’s obvious that Suffolk is committed to empowering the young people to succeed,” she said.

Housing opportunities also are growing, she added. From last year’s Homerama event in the North Suffolk community The Riverfront to new downtown loft apartments under construction, Suffolk has many options, she said.

“We’re a perfect blend of old and new, rural and urban, traditional and modern,” she said. “Our options and opportunities are endless.”

In the end, she added, “We are a blank canvas, ready for growth and boundless opportunity.”