Tyler can continue to enjoy a prosperous future as long as people are willing to join hands and work together, the city's mayor said Wednesday.
That simple philosophy was the theme as Mayor Barbara Bass rolled out her annual State of the City address at Harvey Convention Center, set to the 1979 dance hit from Sister Sledge, “We are Family.”
The remarks came on the heels of her Wednesday morning swearing in at Tyler City Hall, marking the start of her final term as mayor, due to term limits.
Wednesday's address included the introduction of new Tyler City Councilman Darryl Bowdre and recognition of mayors from neighboring communities: Anne Hall, Chandler; Mike Turman, Noonday; Pam Frederick, Bullard; Robert Nelson, Lindale; Rusty Smith, Winona.
“Four years ago I issued you all a challenge to be a part of a stronger community,” she said. “We are all in this together.”
The mayor credited public private partnerships for helping Tyler build a prosperous future.
The power of working together should not be under estimated, the mayor said, citing numerous recent achievements.
“We are working together to end homelessness in Tyler,” she said. “We have made the opening of Liberty Hall a reality and a success.”
“The fact is that Tyler's future depends upon the power of 'We,'” the mayor said. “Public private partnerships are a key to our success and ability to maintain our quality of life.”
In the next two years, she plans a strong emphasis on how the community can work together on projects for the future: a downtown parking garage, Lindsey Building redevelopment and possibly one day, a convention center.
With public private partnerships, those possibilities and others are attainable, the mayor said, highlighting examples of earlier collaborations.
Thanks to a partnership with the Tyler Bike Club, Lindsey Park will have a new mountain bike trail by summer, she said.
A donation from AT&T means the city will have some new wildflower corridors for the spring.
Design work is starting on the West Cumberland Road project and efforts are under way to acquire right of way.
Moving forward, updates are planned for the Tyler 21 Comprehensive Plan, based on input from residents.
And neighboring cities are uniting to address important regional issues through the newly created Council of Cities, the mayor said.
New businesses are looking at Tyler, she said, thanks to its low tax rate, no general obligation debt, AAA bond rating and willingness to fund infrastructure improvements through half-cent sales tax revenue.
“Even with last year's tough economic conditions, we have maintained the lowest tax rate in the state among cities with a population greater than 15,000,” the mayor said, repeating the statement for emphasis.
“Not only is our tax rate the lowest, in some situations it is more than four times as low as cities of similar size,” Mayor Bass said, citing Waco's municipal tax rate as 78 cents; Denton, 69 cents; Killeen, 96 cents; compared to Tyler at 20.8 cents.
Efforts to run a lean, efficient operation require a daily commitment from people in and outside local government, she said, adding, “In June, we will be hosting a celebration to mark the city's Lean Sigma program, saving more than $2 million.”
Mayor Bass ended her remarks with an invitation to attendees to get up and get involved.
Jerry Woolverton, Texas Bank and Trust, said the entire area has benefited from the endless energy and selfless service of Tyler's first female mayor.
“No one can say your accomplishments are pretty good for a woman,” he said. “Your accomplishments are great, period. Thank you Barbara for all you've done for Tyler.”