This summer marks the completion of my twentieth year as Mayor of East Wenatchee. I recall being asked by the local media in 1998 what I saw as my primary goal in serving East Wenatchee in this position. My answer was that I felt my primary job would be one of managing our city’s growth, both fiscally, geographically and from the standpoint of our city’s infrastructure. Now, looking back over those twenty years, I am impressed with how prophetic that statement turned out to be.
Evidence of the city’s economic growth since 1998 is evident in the changes that have occurred to our retail community, in the area around the Wenatchee Valley Mall, on Grant Road and all over our retail business district. The whole face of our retail community has changed dramatically over that period. In addition, with the help of countless federal and state grants, the city has engaged in numerous street improvement projects, primarily to our arterial streets which support and enhance our retail growth. One has to marvel at the modern appearance that our city has taken on as a result of those infrastructure improvements and the new businesses and residences which have relocated, upgraded, or simply been built in East Wenatchee during those twenty years. Looking around, one can see evidence that the growth continues as businesses continue to build and expand in our city.
As growth has occurred in East Wenatchee, so has our yearly budgets, which are primarily supported each year by the sales taxes and property taxes generated by that growth. Our operating budget has more than tripled over that period, and the amount of annual cash carryover managed by the city council has increased over ten-fold. Our city council, with the advice and support of our staff, has managed those finances so well that, as I have stated before, we are perhaps in a unique class as a city without any current bonded indebtedness.
This is a good thing, because there is a downside to all this growth. The city has now outgrown its physical facilities. Each department of the city is currently experiencing growing pains in the sense that is needs room to expand to meet the ongoing needs of our constituents served by it.
The challenge for our city council and the next Mayor of our great city, over the next twenty years, will be to provide for the upgrading and expansion of the physical facilities while maintaining the current sound financial health of East Wenatchee. But this will be a good challenge, as that expansion will also add to the overall function and appearance of East Wenatchee, the city which I am so grateful I have been allowed to serve as Mayor for these last twenty years.