What words come to mind as we enter the year 2002? During the year 2001, many words traveled through my mind as I tried to meet varied expectations of the 25,000+ citizens in our community:
Leadership through service; Custody of my own values, as we tackle many issues; Maintaining my own character as I share myself with others; Courage to vote my convictions, think and act anew; Motivating others to care about their own particular situation; Foresightedness on the issues that affects us most; Knowledge with common sense; Willingness to listen and hear, then act; Being available to others as they seek to meet the needs of others; Communication with citizens and neighboring governmental officials.
Using all of my innate abilities, I have tried to stress all of these thoughts, in some way, during my first year of service as Gainesville’s first Black female Mayor, serving along with the uniqueness and the great qualities of leadership of my fellow Council members, our knowledge, proficient, energetic, and marvelous City Staff, our varied and efficient non-profit organizations and their many, many volunteers. “En total,” we have spent a great year together and have made tremendous strides toward meeting the needs of our community.
Our duties have been many, including some hard decisions, some routine, and some that came with ease, as we worked to maintain the level of service to which we have become accustomed, and to make life better for each human being who calls Gainesville home. If I were to try to list all of the decisions and accomplishments that were made, my mind would fall short of mentioning the total picture.
I would mention, though the overall positiveness in policy-making of our Council. Because these acts are not controversial, many of these decisions are not covered in the media. Because I do not enjoy controversy, my basic message: disseminating governmental information and communication of governmental functions to citizens does not reach the ears of citizens who do not attend community meetings.
What is my wish for 2002? I envision Gainesville citizens becoming even more involved in governmental functions, services, and actions that affect the lives of the present and future generations. Some of these issues include:
Positive growth; Development and redevelopment; Listening to and hearing the issues of existing neighborhoods whether or not they are “organized associations”; Improving communication and education in all areas of town, as it relates to accurate expectations of what the function of government entails; Involving a greater variety of citizens who serve on City Boards; Improving communication with area governments and the School Board;
Improvement of streets and roads; Water and sewer, storm water and waste water; Traffic and transportation; Planning and annexation issues; Continue to work toward a cleaner Gainesville… seek to combine the efforts of the three existing groups in Gainesville-Hall County on this issue; Improve and add work force housing; Work to improve the quality of existing housing; Continue recognizing the accomplishments and updates of our existing businesses so that they provide greater communication, and better services for our citizens; Increasing availability of recreation on the Gainesville’s Southside;
Research issues of “rails to trails”, green space, “brown fields”, impact fees, etc; Improve and revise our present Human Relations Council in order to attack issues of racism and simple human kindness in our city; Continue to find ways to obtain more involvement of youth in governmental activities; Continuously work to improve the overall quality of life here in Gainesville.
In Gainesville, we are empowered to prosper because with the help of our God, our hearts have been placed in the right perspective. We can continue to do great things through our continuous expressions of the by-products of living together: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
We will serve each other well as we lead through values, character, courage, motivation, foresightedness, knowledge, listening, availability and communication.
It is my hope that all of us will continue to wear the blessings of God throughout our existence in such a great city as Gainesville in the year 2002.
Myrtle W. Figueras, a former French teacher of 30 years, is Mayor of the City of Gainesville.
Note: This column is unedited.