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State of the City Address - Mayor William Manzi
(given at the Methuen Board of Trade Dinner February 16, 2006)

 Let me begin by thanking Nancy Carace and The Methuen Board of Trade for hosting this great event. It has now become a Methuen tradition for the mayor to deliver the State of the City Address at the Board of Trade Annual Dinner, and it’s a tradition that I look forward to continuing in the years to come.

 When I took office just over a month ago, I issued an open invitation for the people of Methuen to assist me in leading our great city. I stated my belief that “Government works best when it works together,” and that Methuen’s great strength lies in its people and our sense of community.

As a small business owner, I also know how important the business community is to the fabric of our city. That is why I am issuing a special invitation today to Methuen’s business community. I need your help to lead this city in the years to come. Together, we can achieve great things. And because I know that I can count on your support, I am proud to report that the state of our city is strong, and our future is bright.

Before taking office, I realized the great importance of economic and community development. That is why my first priority was to hire a top-notch Economic and Community Development director. I wanted someone who could hit the ground running and get working on such important projects such as a new city master plan, and a comprehensive review of all of the cities regulations, zoning and permitting guidelines. The new director was good enough to join us tonight, and I’m very please to introduce to you Karen Sawyer Faust.

Karen is a great leader who will be a tremendous asset to Methuen. She has met with local business leaders, as well as leaders from outside the city who are willing to make an investment here. She has also helped me to re-organize the Department of Economic and Community Development so that the department is now more efficient and streamlined.

I know that Karen looks forward to meeting with each and every on of you as she tackles such tough issues as redesigning the city’s master plan, redeveloping our downtown and finding innovative ways to control growth while meeting our housing obligations under Chapter 40B. We will be willing, through our Master Plan process, to examine so called “smart growth” proposals made at the State level, such as Chapter 40R and 40S. Success in our downtown will not be arrived at by the use of old formulas but by innovation, and by the use of market forces to create the capital necessary to formulate a new paradigm for our downtown.

The master planning process, which will take 12-15 months, will be a very public, inclusive process. I want everyone in this great city to understand that they have a stake in determining our future. It will be all about consensus-building and creating a community-wide vision.

 A recent city audit report, issued after our re-organization plan was filed, details Methuen’s need to attract more business in order to stabilize our tax rate and maintain our current level of services. Our re-organization will help achieve that important goal.

 I'm anxious to get the word out that Methuen is a business-friendly place, and one of the best ways to do that is to recruit business leaders from our great employers within the City to speak out on behalf of Methuen, to spread the word that we're open for business and that this is a welcome environment for employers of all types.

 Everyone here knows about the City's great attributes - proximity to Boston, the shore, two major airports, unrivaled highway access, favorable tax rate - and we want to recruit the City's business leaders to serve as Methuen Ambassadors.

I want to work closely with the Board of Trade and the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce to create an outreach program to our existing business, to check in with them and to learn about their issues. It's much easier to retain a job and a company than to attract or recruit one.  I'd like the business community to know that retention and recruitment are among my top priorities.

Recently, in a media discussion of Economic Development, Nancy Carace said that the city should always remember the importance of small business. As a small business owner I could not agree with her more. In my inaugural address I asked the citizens of Methuen to step forward and participate in government. It is my intent to form an advisory group to study the regulatory processes that Methuen imposes on its citizens and its businesses, with an eye towards reducing duplication, red tape, and unneeded paperwork. Tonight, I ask the Board of Trade as a group, and you individually, to partner with the City to find ways to do that. It is my hope that we can make Methuen business friendly and less bureaucratic.

If I could steal a line from East District Councilor Joseph Leone it is “Methuen means business”.

 My administration has been able to accomplish many other things during the past month. For example, we broke large cabinet-style meetings into smaller workgroups.

I find these smaller groups to be far more productive then the larger meetings. I’m also finding that I can involve many more city employees in leadership planning, rather than just limiting meetings to department heads.

With the growing cost of energy nation-wide, I have vowed to find ways for city government to save money and energy. My administration is currently working on an energy audit so we can discover new ways to conserve. We are finding that there are many small things that everyone in city government can do to conserve energy. And we are working with our local utility companies in order to tackle the larger energy issues as well.

I know that interaction with government can sometimes be inconvenient, confusing and frustrating for our citizens and businesses. Understanding that, I have pledged to use Information Technology to make government easier to understand and utilize for our citizens and businesses. I have already held several planning meetings with an eye toward overhauling the city’s website and allowing greater and more convenient interaction between government and it’s citizens and businesses. I am hopeful that you will start seeing results soon and I look forward to the input of the business community on ways we can improve Information Technology and communication.

Public Safety is always a concern for any local government. When I was President of the city council, I was pleased to support and vote for a reorganization of the police department.

Public safety systems need to stay current and adjust to meet the demands of a growing city like Methuen. Tonight, I am announcing for the first time that I will soon be submitting to the city council, a comprehensive plan to reorganize the Methuen Fire Department.

Fire Chief Clifford Gallant and I have designed a way to streamline the current Fire Department structure and make the entire department more efficient and effective. The re-organization will break the department into several working teams. The teams will work together under the chief to insure that Methuen’s fire and EMT needs are being met 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I look forward to working together with Chief Gallant and all of Methuen’s public safety personnel in the coming weeks and months.

 Although Methuen has come a long way in the past several years, there is still much to accomplish. As mayor, I pledge to work with the business community in order to meet the goals I have outlined today, and establish open lines of communication between government and business. Together I know that we can work through the challenging issues that we will undoubtedly face. I look forward to standing before you again at next year’s dinner. By then, I know that we will be able to detail a record of accomplishment that every Methuen citizen and every Methuen business will be proud of.

 

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The February, 2006 Edition of the Valley Patriot
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