2019 State of the City
Today marked the first State of the County address for Mayor Kevin Cotton. He joined Mayors from throughout Hopkins County, Judge Executive Jack Whitfield and numerous members of the community to utilize a platform alerting citizens about changes, challenges and what is in the pipeline for The Best Town on Earth.
As we are only a little over two months (or 66 days to be super specific) into 2019, we've already come a long way in achieving the vision laid out by Mayor Cotton during his election last year. While sometimes a State of the City address can be an opportunity to celebrate successes achieved over the past year, he used it to ensure the public that his is at work. Because, while much progress has been made over the past few years, our City still has a lot of work to do. Our future will be set by those coming together to build our community and create opportunity and those who focus on the positives instead of the negatives.
Working people, who are losing their homes because the jobs they have-often multiple jobs-don’t pay well enough to cover their mortgage or the rent, provide food for their children, keep the utilities paid and they find themselves struggling or find themselves homeless. Veterans who have served to protect our citizens, our rights and our country aren’t able to find employment and find themselves out on the street after having made the ultimate sacrifice. For us, this is a problem that has been ignored, it is not often something considered by those who make the rules because they themselves are not experiencing that level of difficultly and don’t truly understand. We’ve recently re-opened the Salvation Army Homeless Shelter after sixteen years of it being shut down. In 2019, we work on finding solutions to problems that have long been overlooked and those that are just beginning to become clear. But we don’t stop there, we encourage each of you to help us be a part of that solution.
When you come into an office with fresh energy and perspective, it can be easy to focus on all the positives, the things you want to accomplish, the great things you will do—during that time, it can be easy to brush aside the things you don’t want to immediately tackle, the problems looming just over the edge of your great plans, the potential obstacles—but that is not who we are and ignoring problems isn’t a platform of our administration. Rather than disregarding the pieces of the puzzle we find most difficult, we are facing our challenges head on. It is common knowledge that everyone within our city limits desires growth and expansion—especially if it involves adding in Chick-Fil-A so chicken minis are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What many don’t see are the challenges that lay behind the scenes that hinder our growth. This includes the lack of available sewer services, the pension crisis, inadequate funding, housing, road and sidewalks. This list could go on, and on, but someone once said, “being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”
While we work together to solve new and old problems, we also are hard at work on fulfilling the plans that were originally presented to you in Mayor Cotton's campaign in 2018. We have made hard decisions with our internal staff where we’ve realigned job duties, created a new position and made some personnel changes, but all of that has helped us to create the best team possible to work for you. When we allowed our employees to fulfill their full potential and collaborate together we’ve seen amazing things already happen.
When we held our first Department Head meeting of the year, Mayor Cotton passed out a book called The Ideal Team Player. He asked our Department Heads to read this book and then pass it along so that it can begin making its way through the employees in their departments. One of the key words here isn’t perfect, but ideal, this book has allowed for us to take a look at ourselves and begin to see where we fit into an ideal team-oriented environment. This teamwork has allowed us to improve internally by leaps and bounds, and we are just getting started. We have put our employees in positions where they thrive, we are celebrating their achievements and working to show them our endless appreciation for the amazing jobs they do every single day and we are finding success around every corner.
In the past, while we have worked well with other local businesses we are looking to continue building these relationships to new heights. In this administration, we will offer a fair opportunity to sponsor City Events. We are grateful to those that have sponsored previous events, but we want to allow everyone to experience the same benefits and exposure instead of limiting it to a handful. We will provide the annual sponsors with the opportunity to be a sponsor for every City event held in 2019 from Friday Night Live to 4th Fest to Kidapalooza and everything in-between. We are changing things to be fair, we are scheduling things so that they don’t conflict with other community events and compete for attendance.
Jeff Duvall, our Parks Superintendent, contacted Mayor Cotton on one of his first days in office and let him know that three young students from Pride Elementary had some concerns that they would like to bring to his attention. Jeff Duvall and Mayor Cotton joined them for lunch to hear them out. These three young men informed us that they would like to see a fence installed around the basketball courts at Festus Claybon for safety reasons. By voicing their opinion to the appropriate parties, these students are going to see that their efforts will be rewarded with action. We will be doing a renovation project at Festus Claybon within the upcoming months and their suggestion has been worked into the plan and these bright young men will help us cut the ribbon upon its completion. One goal of our administration is to acknowledge that our kids are our future. We want to create a better community for them to grow up in and to move back to following college, and we believe that one way to successfully do this is to let them have a voice in the changes that we make over the next four years.
We’ve heard from several people that they want to be more involved in our local government, be kept in the loop with the current going-ons and have full transparency with decisions being made by the Mayor and our City Council. With a concentrated effort from our IT gurus, Jeff Bell and Tim Trice, we have been able to implement a new system that allows for the livestreaming of every City Council meeting held from here on out. We can label them with the date and allow for those who can’t make it to City Hall on a Monday at 4:30 to have full visibility of everything that happens within that session. We believe in addressing the concerns of our community and continuing to find inventive ways to provide solutions to the problems that they present to us. We also believe in recognizing individuals within our community that go above and beyond. Just last month, we begin honoring people within our community at City Council meetings who had done just that. For instance, 7 year-old Hailey Prince who called 911 when a family member had a seizure and by communicating with the dispatcher saved his life; or Lance Johnson who worked with the Madisonville Police Department to help a little boy find his home and get back to safety; or Peyton Adams who contacted the City with positive news that because of the assistance of four firemen who were out to lunch at Country Cupboard threw down their forks to help a member of his group who was having a stroke and provided care until EMTs were able to arrive. There are so many people within our community with good hearts and who perform extraordinary acts every day and we want to begin paying tribute to them. We ask that if you have a story like this you share it with us and allow us to continue this new initiative.
For single individuals employed by the City of Madisonville, we were told that we had a “Cadillac” plan by our healthcare provider. Unfortunately, as you begin to create a family the expenditures associated with healthcare costs begin to increase even with premium coverage. Over the past two months, we’ve met with every single employee and a constant concern brought to our attention was affordable healthcare. Our employees weren’t concerned for themselves, but they wanted a better option for their families. We’ve been on a couple of trips to observe the best practices of larger cities who employ a nurse practitioner. The addition of this specific role will allow employees to take their significant other or children to the nurse for no additional cost or accrued co-pay to help alleviate costs from general medical visits. We are passionate about working for the betterment of our employees and providing them with a first-class working environment.
A lot of people have expressed concern about the future of our City events and the worry that they will no longer be going on. We are here to assure you that is not the case. We can let you know that we were behind the gate starting on this and have been working to catch up on planning that should really begin in the fall of the year before. Through some impressive teamwork, effective communication and a desire to present this community with the best event season it has seen in a while, we are pleased to share with you some details of our hard work. We will be hosting three Friday Night Live events this year on June 14, July 19 and August 2. These acts will feature Tracy Lawrence, Grand Funk Railroad, The Gap Band and Sister Sledge. We are expanding 4th Fest with the biggest fireworks show Madisonville has had yet with 4th Fest entertainment being the Charlie Daniels Band, and Australian Duo and two-time Grammy winners, For King and Country headlining Praise in the Park. We are working on adding new ways to assist our local talent gain exposure, we are working to expand things for our kids to do and we are actively working to make all this happen in the near future.
We wish we could tell fully disclose to you everything in the pipeline for 2019, but what we can promise you is that there are great things in store for this community. We are focusing on quality over quantity, long-term benefits over temporary satisfaction and creating a positive impact that will touch each person within our county limits. You deserve better and we are all working diligently to best of our abilities to provide you with just that. Better events, better employee benefits, better working environments, better infrastructure, better park systems for our children, better acknowledgement of individuals doing good within our community and a better heart for this community.
Barak Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” We ask you to stand with us and together we are confident that we can be the change that we wish to see in our local community. We are stronger as a united front, and together, we can make things happen. Mayor Cotton based his campaign platform on the people of our community and what they wanted to see begin to transform, and now we are taking those suggestions, the ideas and the feedback and actively implementing that into our action plan for this year. Soon, you will begin to see these changes take root and begin to form before your eyes. When you do, you’ll see the detailed plan we’ve been building and you will see exactly what we are all capable of when we put our minds to it.
Madisonville, this is how we build our better future. Through teamwork, dedication and willing ourselves to be the catalyst of change. Let’s keep moving.