Mayor Jim Thornton, a long-term Rotarian who was born, raised and educated in LaGrange, spoke with the LaGrange Chapter of the Rotary Club on Wednesday, February 22 to give members updates on the new, exciting features in the City.
But, before Thornton began his State of the City Address, he was welcomed by Past President of the LaGrange Rotary Club and current City Attorney Jeffrey Todd.
“More important than his titles and his qualifications and positions he’s held are certain qualities he brings to his local community paths,” said Todd.
“Jim’s heart is in the right place. Every decision I’ve seen him make as Mayor is deliberately and fundamentally determined by what’s best for the community.”
Following Todd’s introduction, Thornton took the podium to address the Rotary Club.
“LaGrange, right now, is engaged and LaGrange is inspired. We as a community are engaged at a level that I don’t think we have been engaged at in many, many years,” Thornton explained.
Political leaders, business people, non-profit organizations, families etc. have made the decision to invest in LaGrange and to put the responsibility of seeing this community thrive not on the shoulders of City Hall, but on their own shoulders.
“I am inspired to do better and I see that among all of the 31,000 citizens of La-Grange,” said Thornton.
Thornton highlighted public safety, telling Rotary that this is the City’s top priority. He also praised LaGrange City Police Chief Lou Dekmar for building his law enforcement program and further ensuring community safety.
“We also recognized that transportation and infrastructure remain something that we have to invest in.”
“We’ve been very successful in recruiting businesses… we can deliver them the services and the utilities that they will need to be successful.”
Thornton then explained the City’s finances.
“The City remains financially stable. LaGrange does a lot of stuff, and it takes $127 million a year to operate the City.”
“We run a surplus budget; we have not levied a property tax going on 19 years.”
Following a financial talk, Thornton brought up La-Grange’s economic development and expansion.
“It’s not just about going out and recruiting jobs; it’s just not about having people invest in our community. It’s about getting the talent and level of resources into our community that allows us to improve our quality of life.”
“You’re starting to see lots of cranes popping up,” Thornton said as he explained the new, local developments spanning from the new Ida Callaway Hudson Lab Sciences Building of LaGrange College to the downtown Marriott Hotel.
Thornton also praised the smaller businesses, those loyal to LaGrange for decades, which are taking this opportunity to grow their staff and expand their clientele.
After Thornton’s updates, one member of the Rotary Club asked if the Mayor would give a challenge to the City of LaGrange, a challenge that each citizen can take on in order to uphold the current, positive change.
“I think the challenge… is this notion of ownership. When I was on Council, and particularly when I took office as Mayor, I felt like there was a lot of tension in the community, where people felt either they were dependent on City Hall to fix an issue or they thought City Hall was against them.”
“For two years now, I have been preaching… that we have got to get beyond that. We have to recognize that most good ideas don’t start at City Hall; most good ideas start out in the community, and we need to have a community empowered and inspired to bring forward those good ideas.”
Peyton Hanners Staff Writer