Meridian Star

Columns

June 26, 2013

Mayor Barry bids farewell

MERIDIAN — This is the final time I will speak to you from Meridian City Hall. I would like to take a few moments to reflect back on the four years you've honored me as your mayor, and to examine the path Meridian is now on.

    Let me once again congratulate Percy Bland on winning the election and becoming the next mayor of Meridian, and ask that God bless Mr. Bland's time in this office and God has blessed mine.

    Thank you to the Meridian City Council for a wonderful partnership.

 Thank you to my department heads who have been the best team I could hope for.

    Thank you to the city employees for your hard work for this community.

    Thank you to the citizens who gave me the honor of my life by allowing me to serve as your mayor.

    We were able to achieve much in four years, despite the fact that we were in the worst economic times since the Great Depression.

    Among our many accomplishments are newly paved streets, improved wastewater treatment, a new police station, a new fire station, and a state of the art communications system to improve public safety.

    Our most important achievement was our decision to transform city government. We decided to change how the city spends money and live within our means.

    We eliminated non-vital city positions such as the ombudsman, retirement recruitment, and Keep America Beautiful. We decided to dedicate tax dollars to city services and not monuments in buildings.

    We rebuilt relationships with our county, state, and federal partners in government. In short, we did the things citizens expect from city government every day.

    We fought the good old boy system. The first rule of government is to treat everyone the same. Not everyone on the street has access to the good old boy system. In government, what you do for one, you must do for all.

    For those reasons, we attacked the system that helped a privileged few. My administration has performed with integrity, transparency and consistency.

    We provided an unprecedented level of transparency. Taxpayers were kept informed of our decisions and actions through weekly community updates, video addresses, and town hall meetings.

    Truly, it is taxpayers who should get the full credit for the achievements for the past four years. You sent us to city hall to reform city government. Our decisions and policies came from the heart of the citizens.

    Our direction came from a clear call from taxpayers to return our city government back to the people. We shaped the budget to make it more sustainable each year

    We no longer blindly funded commitments simply because "that's the way it's always been done" —regardless of whether they were wise, and regardless of whether they yielded programs that even worked.

    We put citizens first, governed according to the law, and made every decision based on what was best for the taxpayers.

    Meridian is now among the top five city financials in the state of Mississippi.

    Because of those financial decisions, during four years, we were able to:

    • Invest more than $6 million in street and road infrastructure. Which includes passing the city's first bond solely for paving and drainage in a decade, resulting in $4.5 million for improvements.

    • We invested more than $9 million in water and sewer improvements.

    • We secured two significant grants for infrastructure. A $1 million MDOT grant for street-scape improvements for Fifth Street. A $2.7 million grant from the Governor's office for storm drainage repair downtown.

    • And we saved citizens of Meridian more than $500,000 by awarding the garbage collection contract to Waste Pro.

    We did all this without raising taxes.

    We built a team with the right leadership and began a process of reform. We did not serve as politicians. We governed as public servants.

    While some decisions were not easy, they were vital — decisions such as changing from Waste Management to Waste Pro and vetoing a moratorium on building permits.

    Seven times I used the mayor's veto power in what I believed to be the best interest of the citizens. Not one veto was overturned.

Together, we accomplished something great — the turnaround of the Queen City and the creation of a stronger future for our children. We made a difference.

    I encourage you to continue on this path we created during the past four years.

    Continue on the path of transparency and good government for all. Put citizens first. Continue to govern by the principles of passion, authenticity, and integrity.

    Make the right decision, no matter the political cost or consequences. Again thank you for the honor of serving as mayor.

    May God continue to bless the great city of Meridian.

Mayor Cheri Barry

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