|Mayor Paul Lambi|
Wentzville 2004-2012—Eight Years of Growth and Accomplishments Highlights
It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve as Wentzville’s Mayor for the past eight years, and a privilege to work alongside our professional City staff and Aldermen as we serve our residents. As I look back to where the City was when I was first elected in 2004 and where Wentzville is today, I can’t help but feel fortunate that I was part of the amazing progress our City has made.
When I pass the baton to the City’s next Mayor in April, I will do so with confidence, knowing that my legacy of service is a City that is stronger and more dynamic today than it was when I was sworn into office in April of 2004. Below are a few of what I consider to be the most significant accomplishments the City has made during my terms as Mayor.
The most amazing change over the past eight years has been our growth. Wentzville experienced a 322- percent population growth from 2000 to 2010. The 2000 U.S. Census listed our population at about 6,700. The 2010 Census set Wentzville’s population at a little over 29,000. This phenomenal growth has caught the attention of everyone. In 2007, the Gadberry Group, a company that provides some of the top companies in the U.S. household and population data, named Wentzville as one of seven of the most notable places in the U.S. Then in 2008, Wentzville was named Missouri’s Boomtown.
As thousands of new residents began moving to Wentzville and new homes sprang up year after year, our City’s elected officials and staff were challenged to make sure our infrastructure and services met our growing needs. But just keeping up with growth isn’t enough. To ensure the roads, water, sewer, and other amenities were in place and operational when they were needed, we had to plan on how to stay ahead of the growth curve.
Growth is good, but an ad-hoc approach to growth and development is counterproductive. It is important to know where you want to end up before you start. Without sound planning and developing a business-friendly environment, many of the benefits and amenities we enjoy wouldn’t be possible. To make sure we continually moved in the right direction, in 2006 we adopted a 10-Year Comprehensive Plan. This Plan lets our residents, businesses, and prospective businesses know what they can expect as our City continues to grow.
Our strategic approach to positioning Wentzville as a premier place to live and do business has paid off tremendously. Over the past 8 years we’ve added 500 new businesses. Retail and other businesses know Wentzville is a sound investment in where to locate.
A prime example of how the business and employment opportunities in Wentzville have grown is the amazing development of the area surrounding the Wentzville Parkway/Pearce Boulevard intersection. We’ve seen major retailers like Kohl’s, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, Target, and a super Wal-Mart all spring up in that area, just to name a few. And soon Sam’s will join the ranks of major retailers residents can shop at, right here at home. In fact, the Wentzville Sam’s is the last Sam’s Club store the company plans to build in the whole state of Missouri.
We’ve also seen General Motors reaffirm their commitment to staying in our community by adding a second product line at its Wentzville facility. This new line is expected to add up to 1,500 new jobs, the timing of which couldn’t be better.
In addition to a plethora of retailers, residents now have a wide assortment of restaurants to choose from. Gone are the days when Wentzville residents had to drive 15 to 20 miles to go shopping or out to eat. It’s all now conveniently located right in our backyard.
We applied the same principle of proactive planning when deciding how best to revitalize our historic downtown area. In 2009 we adopted the Downtown Redevelopment Plan, which now serves as a blueprint for how we will turn our Village Center area into an attractive, dynamic business hub.
A good and adequate road system is also necessary to support growth. I’m happy to say we recognized its importance early on, and have worked to ensure the funds were there to keep motorists moving.
A primary factor was the Transportation Sales Tax voters approved in 1999. Since 2000, Wentzville has collected about $18.2 million from its Transportation Sales Tax, but through grants and other funding avenues we’ve been able to turn that into nearly $60 million for transportation projects in the City. Some of the major projects the City has completed during this time include the Wentzville Parkway overpass, Phases 1 and 2 of the West Meyer Road improvements and the West Meyer Road bridge near Rotary Park, Phases 2, 3, and part of Phase 4 of Interstate Drive, design and construction improvements to Old Business 61 (Luetkenhaus Boulevard), and improvements to the Wentzville Parkway and Pearce Boulevard intersection.
In 2010 Wentzville conducted a Citizen Survey. The results of the survey indicated traffic flow and congestion management were services residents wanted to receive the most emphasis over the next two years. As a result, we’ve set street maintenance as one of our top three priorities.
Another way we’ve addressed the importance of keeping traffic flowing in Wentzville is in our snow- removal efforts. In 2007 we developed a winter snow protocol to ensure we used the most efficient and effective method of clearing roads when it snows. The protocol provided us a plan to enable the largest number of people the ability to navigate our roads, in the shortest amount of time after a snowfall.
Timely expansions of the City’s water delivery and wastewater treatment were also important parts of making sure the City’s infrastructure stayed ahead of the growth curve. Over the past eight years we’ve worked to ensure these necessary services were ready when our residents needed them. In 2004 we had about 170 miles of water mains serving our residents, but by 2011 that number had climbed to 234.7 miles of water mains. In 2006 we also added a two-million gallon water tower in Rotary Park to our water-storage capacity.
We’ve also planned phased expansions of our waste water treatment plant to keep us ahead of the curve. Thanks to voter-approved bond issues, we’ve been able complete Phase 1 of the expansions, and expect Phase 2 to be completed in 2013. Once Phase 2 is completed, we should be able to process up to 6.1 million gallons of waste water per day, which is estimated to be sufficient for a population of up to 43,000.
I’m also delighted that over the past eight years we’ve not lost track of the importance of the softer, quality-of-life issues, and how they make our City an outstanding place to live and raise a family. We’ve added more than 109 acres of parkland since 2004, and have worked to bring residents top-quality, family-friendly events and programs.
Thanks to voter approval of a special 1⁄2-cent Parks Sales Tax, we’ve already begun work to turn much of our undeveloped parkland into a new outdoor aquatic center, and two new parks with softball and soccer/football fields. All three of these new recreation areas are expected to open in 2014.
In 2005 we signed a 20-year lease agreement with Renaissance St. Louis, Inc. to ensure the Renaissance Faire will continue to be an annual event in Wentzville. And all year long our outstanding Parks and Recreation Department offers a wide variety of programs and special events for all ages—from toddlers to grandparents.
Residents have also been able to take a peek back in time through two Civil War reenactments hosted by our City. And in 2004, we began the City’s annual Wabash Days Celebration to recognize the role the railroad played in the development of Wentzville. Over the past eight years, this annual three-day street festival, which is held in the historic center of our City, has brought tens of thousands of visitors to Wentzville to enjoy the rides, parades, entertainment performances, and unique craft booths.
We’ve also worked hard to leave a more beautiful, environmentally-healthy community to our children. We’ve passed ordinances that allowed us to achieve the designation of a Tree City U.S.A., expanded our recycling program, and established more environmentally-friendly ways to handle stormwater runoff.
While improving our infrastructures and ensuring residents received top-quality services, we’ve never lost sight of the importance of handling City funds in a prudent, fiscally responsible manner. At a time when many cities around the country are cutting services and struggling to stay financially solvent, I feel our City stands out as a bright example of what we as Americans and solid Midwesterners can accomplish.
We’ve always set ambitious, but realistic goals, while at the same time sticking to a very conservative approach to how we manage public funds. As a result, we’ve been able to add and enhance services for our residents over the past eight years, while at the same time maintain a high credit rating. We’ve even been able to drop the Property Tax rate residents pay during this time. In 2004 our City Property Tax Rate was 1.0273, but by 2011 it had dropped to .8958.
As I look back on all that has happened and what we’ve been able to accomplish as a City since I was first elected Mayor in 2004, I’m amazed and honored to have been part of it. Without a doubt, it’s been a very good and eventful eight years, and I wouldn’t have missed them for the world.