Mayor Al Litman delivers his 2019 State of the City address. Below are his remarks verbatim.
Note: To watch a video of this speech click on this link or go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rILOVpWTcSY&feature=youtu.be
Much like a president’s state of the union address, a state of the city speech should celebrate the community, recognize areas for improvement, and set the policy agenda for the year ahead based on the goals and agendas of its leaders. I believe this address will cover these areas today.
Many mayors open with a joke or a funny story. I love a good joke but am terrible at telling them.
Now days, of course, the joke or story needs to be politically correct. So, with all that said, I’ll just skip the joke, and quote from some obscure politician, “I’ll try to keep my remarks brief.
After all, it’s said that most speakers need no introduction. What they need is a conclusion.” So sit back and I will shortly give you my take on the state of the city of Mesquite, Nevada.
In past years I spent considerable time thinking of a theme for the state of the city address. I tried
to be creative and think I was. this year a theme came to me as I thought about myself. As I’m sure most of you know, I had some medical issues over the past year. It’s no secret and shouldn’t be. I believe in being open as much as possible.
I’m fine now. I’m ok. Life is good and getting better. That’s my theme for this year, just substitute
Mesquite for me.
Mesquite is fine. Mesquite is good and getting better. Mesquite is a great place to live and enjoy life as I do.
I am blessed. I have the opportunity to spend the best years of my life in Mesquite. I have the
opportunity to work with the best staff a mayor could ever hope for.
Is Mesquite the perfect place? No, it’s not. No place is. There is no utopia. By the way, utopia is defined as an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. In a utopia everyone and everything is perfect, and no place is.
But, if any place is close, Mesquite is. I didn’t make it that way, nor did any elected official. You did-all of your optimism and hard work establishing your businesses. Your love of community. Your generosity towards those in need. Your belief in our future. Your respect for law and order, and your faith in our local government got us to where we are today.
I know that many of you here today are fairly new to Mesquite and perhaps not aware of its early
history that laid the groundwork for what we have today.
They say the third time is a charm. That’s the way it was for the proud pioneer families who came here to create a new life for themselves. We were called Mesquite Flat back in the 1870’s and 8o’s. Our pioneer families were wiped out back then from floods, twice, in just a few years. They persevered and came back. Six young families from Bunkerville rebuilt the destroyed canals and finally made a permanent settlement. They changed the name to Mesquite, and here we are.
Move ahead a hundred years, and in 1984, Mesquite was incorporated as a city. We were strictly a farming community with cotton, raisin production and milk cattle as its main sources of income. We had more cows than people living here. When the Peppermill casino opened in 1970 Mesquite started to diversify its economy. Mesquite persevered throughout the years. We made it through a serious recession. We will continue to move forward.
Before I start my report, I would like to recognize the other members of government who are here today.
I would also like to recognize some other very important people here today, although all of you are very important people.
Mesquite has a number of community organizations that contribute much to making our city what it is. If you are representing one of our many civic or non-profits thank you for attending.
I want to thank the CasaBlanca for not only hosting today’s event, but also for all they do for our city. They don’t like recognition but contribute far more than you know. I would like to thank the Eureka hotel and casino for hosting many of the chamber events and all they do in our community for our youth and veterans. I would also like to thank Conestoga golf for hosting Chamber lunches at their club.
A city does not run itself. If it’s to run correctly and smoothly the staff must be dedicated to the betterment of the city. I firmly believe we have the best staff anywhere. Our department heads have led with dedication, loyalty and vision. For many years they operated with a shoe string budget, layoffs, and little support. They persevered under trying conditions.
Under our charter, the key person who is responsible for running our city is the city manager Andy Barton. Andy is assisted by Aaron Baker and our new assistant to myself, Andy, and Aaron, Martine Green. Martine hit the ground running from her first day. I am truly fortunate to have them supporting me.
As you know, the role of the city council is to govern through ordinances and to approve the budget and the other business of the city. This year we have three new council persons. Annie Black, Sandra Ramaker and George Gault. Although new, they are quickly adjusting to city government.
This past year Mesquite accomplished quite a bit. In fact, so much I decided to break it down by departments and note their accomplishments and future goals for Mesquite.
In no particular order, let me talk a little about each of our departments and what they accomplished in 2018, as well as their goals for the coming year. It’s by no means all their accomplishments or I would have you here all day.
2018 marked a tumultuous year for the Fire Department with the departure of Chief Christopher who was replaced with Jason Andrus. I assure you we are in good hands. Under Chief Andrus we placed a new fire engine into service, replacing a 23-year-old well-worn truck. Our reserve staff went from 2 to 10 with more to come. We receive a daily report from the department, which greatly improved communication and transparency with our city.
With our growing and aging population, the department is always busy. I hope to continue to staff Fire and Rescue to provide the services our residents and visitors expect from a first class city. I commend each and every member of our Fire and Rescue department.
With the coming of natural gas to Mesquite, the department will be working with Southwest Gas to provide tactical procedures in responding to any natural gas emergency. The department continues to provide employee development through training and education to better prepare them in providing a higher level of care to our community. I can’t thank Chief Jason Andrus enough for his leadership.
Our department of Athletics and Leisure services under the direction of Nick Montoya, continues to shine. I’m not sure that Nick ever sleeps. Whenever or wherever he is needed, he is there. It’s almost too much to describe what his department accomplished in the past year. With Nick and his staff being conservation minded, they have been able to move our parks and facilities to a new water control system, saving the city water, money and time.
Town Square Park was completed and is a beautiful addition to our park system. New LED lighting was put in at Old Mill Park. Safety fence for our preschool was installed to protect our little ones. We acquired a Silver Sneaker contract that will pay the city to keep our seniors healthy and active.
In 2019, the department plans on a refurbishment the of S.E.C Splash pad, obtaining grant money for new parks projects, adding more adult sports programs and additional remodeling of the recreation center. Mr. Montoya is the star of sports and recreation in the city of Mesquite.
The city clerk’s department is one of our smallest departments with one full time and one part time clerk. Their duties are complex, need to be exceptionally accurate and are subject to numerous deadlines. In other words, very stressful in nature.
Tracy Beck, our full time clerk is doing an excellent job multi-tasking constantly. Tracy interacts with the public daily; often under very trying circumstances, as grieving families come into see her for the purchase of cemetery plots, funeral information and internments. This past year, in addition to her regular duties, was the successful preparation for elections and the responsibilities that come with seeing that local elections went smoothly.
With the assistance of a deputy clerk, the department completed the first phase of having all past agendas, minutes, and packets scanned. Our Granicus program will make all of the material available on the city website later in the Spring. Thank you Tracy for a job well done.
Mesquite police is most proud of the designation of the safest city in Nevada. This honor reflects the Departments strong relationship with the community and the combined effort of our citizens and officers in creating a proactive policing policy, not only to prevent crime, but also to quickly solve crime. Youth safety is of primary concern and the Department was able to add an additional school resource officer this past year. The department continues to build information sharing relationships on all levels to better solve crime. Our police volunteer fleet was extended by two additional vehicles and all volunteers were given Police radios to assist them in helping our officers by providing traffic control at accidents and during critical incidences.
Goals for the coming year are basically the same every year; keep us safe, out of harm’s way. That’s all I need to hear. Thank you Chief Chesley and all the officers and support staff that work so hard on our behalf.
Public Works under the direction of Billy Tanner amazes me. In 2018, they received approval and put in a wild life deterrent perimeter fence around our airport. 16,000 feet of it! In addition, an airport sewer line extension, 9 new manholes and square 69,000 feet of new asphalt. Under the complete streets program the department installed a number of rectangular rapid flashing beacons. These highly visible flashing beacons help to provide a safer crossing for pedestrian traffic.
Town Square Park was designed in house by Public Works staff. They also provided construction management and inspection. If you have children, this park is a must visit.
Roadway projects are numerous. Many streets were redone and repaired. No potholes in Mesquite streets!!!!!! Our Mesquite streets are the best I have ever seen!!!!!.
I know Public Works hates to see our streets cut up for projects, but as I mentioned before, natural gas is finally here. I believe it will be well worth the minor disruptions we will encounter as the lines are run. Many businesses will gain from natural gas and hopefully bring more needed companies that depend on natural gas to Mesquite in the coming years.
Just the other day, Danielle’s became the first local business to utilize natural gas. In the coming months many more will join Danielle’s. Natural gas will be a game changer in determining the future of Mesquite.
We live in a desert and flooding causes sediment to fill our detention basins. Public Works cleans them yearly and removes the sediment that would otherwise allow flooding to occur.
The Virgin River flood protection wall has been engineered, and in the very near future will protect those flooded so badly in 2005 and 2010.
There is another project. One that is very dear to my heart. The veteran section of the new cemetery. If you have not been out to see it, take the time, stop by and see the veterans’ section.
Let me tell you how it came to be. I don’t like to use I, and I don’t want to take all the credit for this project. I put together a rough design on a piece of paper. Travis Anderson, our very talented city engineer refined it, and I went out for bids. No city money was involved because none was in the budget. The bid came in for the basic infrastructure. I was astounded how high it was. Bill Tanner came to the rescue. I paid for the needed material, and on his own, with the help of several unnamed by choice, city employees, they came out, on their own time, dug the holes for the foundations and did the basic structures. Their work was flawless.
I went to Mesquite Tile for an estimate for the rest of the work, as it takes professional tile setters for the next phase. I spoke with Kevin Parish for the bid to complete the monuments. Mesquite Tile donated, yes, donated all the material, labor, and clean up to finish the project. The military medallions were provided by Charlie Sellner of City Shoppes at his cost.
A project that should have cost many thousands of dollars was under three thousand. The money was donated by a very generous Mesquite Exchange Club. I know I deviated some from the state of the City address, but these are the things that make Mesquite the wonderful city it is. We, as veterans, can never thank Mesquite and its generous citizens enough for what they do for us.
So what does Public Works have in mind for us in the coming year?
Of course, much of the same quality work that gives us beautiful streets, more roadways that need rehabilitation, more in-house reviews for all new residential and commercial projects and what so many of you have asked for: the installation of two new traffic signals when they arrive next month.
Human Resources up until this year was a department of one; the very capable Gina Mendez, a long-time city employee. Human Resources was able to support all city of Mesquite staff of fulltime employees during the past year. Gina did all the advertising, testing, transferring of full-time employees from one department to another, and the recruitment of 67 part-time and 20 full-time positions. Full-time positions were to replace positions that had been vacated by retirements, terminations and those approved through the budget process.
H.R. maintained the city’s risk management programs as well as claims against the city. H.R. worked with third party agencies keeping the City in compliance with all federal, and state reports, insurance programs, workers comp and general liability, as well as assisting with union grievances and employee relations. Of course there is even more.
H.R., will, in the coming year, continue to deliver assistance and support to all department heads and every city employee. H.R. will continue with maintaining and scanning all city employee files, keep all of us up to date with training on harassment, violence, bullying, and drug and alcohol policies.
H.R. has the goal to acquire a new module through NeoGov to bring all training together from OSHA, safe practices, I.T. training and public safety training. I strongly encourage the city to budget for this in the coming year. By the way, Gina finally has an assistant in her office.
Another city function is the operation of our Municipal court. Judge Toone has taken our court into the 21st century with the Mesquite Breaking The Cycle program, now in its third year. The program assists habitual criminal defendants that have underlying drug and alcohol addictions with their goal of breaking the cycle of addiction and crime. The court also continues to collaborate with specialized veteran and mental health court programs in Las Vegas.
The main goal of Judge Toone in the coming year is to increase in-person and distance training for court staff.
Our information technology department directed by Dirk Marshall handled over 1700 service requests this past year, printed over 875,000 pages, designed and maintained our city website with over 147,000 hits.
I.T. completed the 911 system upgrade, new network security resources, new mobile devices for police and fire and rescue, established backup dispatch for emergency situations and created or updated a number of online mapping tools for public use. Much of what they do, I don’t fully understand. It’s beyond my untechnical mind. I’m sure glad they understand it.
In 2019 I.T. will be implementing new security card access at multiple locations in the city, a new jail door control system, improving online form and information access options and replacing the HVAC in the city hall data center. Excellent job, I.T.
Staff Development services under the direction of Richard Secrist, also was very busy in 2018. The old gym got a new facelift thanks to a historic preservation grant from the state. More restoration will occur this year. In 2018, the city issued 338 single family residential building permits, the most since 2008. Our growth is about 4.25% annually. In addition, 19 commercial building permits, 40 commercial remodel permits and 52 new business permits for a total of just under l00 million dollars.
Eagles Landing travel center opened, employing 23 full time employees, four part time, and four managers. Their liquor store has six employees, and their tire shop eight. The Mesa Valley senior living center is well underway. They project twenty to thirty jobs at start-up and an additional ten at full capacity. Beehive opened another facility. Our state of the art library, a thirteen million dollar project is beautiful and very busy. Leslie’s pool supply and service has been operational for most of the year, providing a much-needed service. Mesquite Christian Academy is open and expanding. Mesquite Pharmacy opened, and they do home delivery, another much needed service.
Starbucks opened on time and is very busy. Starbucks has twenty six employees. In addition, Bridge Insurance is now here, CSE Solar Solutions joined us in Mesquite. Just this past month, the Front Porch Flowers and Gifts had their ribbon cutting. Mr. Taco has twelve full time employees, four part time and two managers. Wendy’s has 17 full time employees, sixteen part time and four full time managers. For a small city, I find all of this impressive.
In 2018 the department issued 339 new business licenses, the most in any year ever.
The department will begin to update our master plan, completing the parks, trails, and open space element, the housing element and the transportation element.
Because of our population growth our goal is to create a planning and zoning commission. I am tasking the city council to start the process of looking to appointing a planning and zoning commission by finding future members and setting the guidelines for the necessary training needed for those selected.
Our legal department, although small, is, and will always be very active. Bob Sweetin does an excellent job in taking care of the day to day business of keeping our ordinances up to date, dealing with numerous court cases, prosecutions of the bad guys, trials and all other legal matters that take place in a city. He too has an outstanding staff.
Last, but not least, and a very necessary element of our city is our finance department. Finance is not as exciting as some of our more visible departments, but we look to them probably more than any other department for obvious reasons. In a nut shell, they handle the money coming in, pay all the bills, payroll, coordinate with all the other departments, meet with the auditors and balance the books. All under very strict regulations.
In 2019, finance will continue to improve all aspects of operation using the latest methods in accounting, to improve efficiency, coordinate with fire and rescue to apply for additional recovery fees, and plan for succession of our Finance director/treasurer. Thank you Mr. Empey for a job well done.
Before I conclude, I don’t want to forget the Mesquite Desert Dogs professional basketball team. They have reorganized and are playing at our high school. Not many cities as small as Mesquite can have professional sports. We do. I hope everyone supports them in their second season.
I hope I have been able to give you a detailed overview of how our city operates, a small portion of what each department does, and what they wish to accomplish in the coming year.
I know I have presented a lot of information today. I found it necessary in order to illustrate the importance of a unified staff, the complexity of city government and, the one common goal of each department: working as one for the betterment of our city.
My goal as mayor, is to offer support and ideas to each department in anyway I can. As you know, under our city charter, the mayor is more of a ceremonial position. Most of the decisions are in the hands of the city manager and the council.
Let me conclude today with what I would like to see our city council working on in the coming year, based on my vision for Mesquite.
Foremost to me is public safety. We need to take all possible and prudent steps to provide for continued, effective and efficient police, fire, and emergency medical services. As you know, we recently has a prolonged power outage in the City; the second one in a little over two years. The first one came in the heat of summer, this one in the cold of winter.
We have an emergency operations center at city hall, but no lights for most of the facility during an outage. This needs to be corrected. We have no place for our citizens to go when the power is out for a long period other than the casinos, and they have no power in the hotel rooms. Mesa View cannot handle a large number of people. The schools have no backup power source.
To this end I have asked Bob Sweetin, Andy Barton, and Aaron Baker to come together with Overton Power, Dixie Escalante, Lincoln County and St. George to develop a solid, well thought out contingency plan that will provide us with additional needed power during the emergencies that will, without a doubt, happen in the future.
I want you to understand this is not a simple procedure. But unless we start now, we will not be prepared for the future. Overton Power is committed to the process, but it will take cooperation from many parties. I am also asking the BLM to commit to this process. We need their help in assisting OPD in obtaining the necessary rights-of-way to bring a redundant line to Mesquite. It’s not the money, it’s the bureaucracy of Washington that can hold up this project for years.
I don’t want us to just talk about this and hope we do not have an emergency beyond our control. We need a real plan that will be in place and publicized to every home in the city. We cannot be unprepared in case of a disaster, natural or man-made.
The most important element of our city is our citizens. To this end, I will continue to pursue positive solutions to potential health and safety issues that could affect our city. I don’t have all the answers, but with your input, we will be successful.
Healthcare–we must be an active player in improving community health care and ensuring that Mesa View Hospital, or an alternative facility becomes and remains a very viable and successful operation.
Citizen communication and participation–we will continue to improve our public information and customer service efforts and will continue to seek public input and participation.
Job creation in a city as small as Mesquite, with our demographics is a challenge. Over the past year we have created a number of well-paying jobs. Deep Roots now has 103 full-time and 12 part-time employees.
Political leadership and stability–we will provide proactive, forward-thinking and long-term focused leadership to guide Mesquite forward and to become a more effective player in the county, state and federal political environments.
Planned, quality growth–we will improve our ability to plan and manage growth in our community. We will play a leadership role in preserving a high quality of life through wise land use planning with a focus on low-density development when possible. We are Mesquite.
The majority of us live here for the quiet peaceful environment a small city offers. We don’t have everything, but do we really want the stresses of big city life? A Trader Joe’s? Won’t happen in our lifetime, they want a quarter of a million people in the area. Big box retailers? Not with our population. Sacrifices? I guess, but worth it if you value why we are here.
Financial sensibility–we will carefully monitor the finances of the city with a conservative approach being mindful of the possibility of an economic downturn beyond our control.
I conclude as I began today. Mesquite is fine. Mesquite is well. Our future is bright. Embrace it for all it has to offer.
Mayor Al Litman
Delivered February 13, 2019