Longtime Lawrence office holder Mike Amyx was elected to a one-year term as mayor Tuesday, and vowed to tackle the longtime struggle to attract a grocery store to North Lawrence.
Amyx, a downtown barbershop owner who has served three previous terms as mayor dating back to 1985, was unanimously selected by his fellow commissioners to the city’s top spot.
He said he would urge commissioners to focus on a list of basic services and priorities, but said he did want a newly created retail task force to pay special attention to the North Lawrence grocery store issue.
“Rather than just paying lip service, I would really like for this task force to find out what is needed for a grocery store to happen in North Lawrence,” Amyx said. “With the investment the city has made in North Lawrence, I think it is time to tell grocers that there is a market in North Lawrence.”
In other issues, Amyx said he would focus on infrastructure maintenance, public safety, economic development and particularly on city finances.
“We’ll be talking a lot about priorities,” said Amyx, a lifelong Lawrence resident. “Anytime money starts to get tight, you talk about choices and priorities.”
Amyx replaces Rob Chestnut, who also made budgetary issues and cost controls a major theme of his term, so much so that one commissioner kidded Chestnut after he was presented with a ceremonial plaque for his service as mayor.
“Does anybody know what we spent on that plaque?” Commissioner Lance Johnson asked. “Are you sure you’re OK with that expense, Rob?”
But commissioners also thanked Chestnut, who is the chief financial officer for Lawrence-based Allen Press, for his “meticulous” attention to city finances.
“He’s somebody who understands people but really understands dollars and cents,” Commissioner Mike Dever said. “During the economic times we had, I really think we had the right person.”
In his State of the City Address, Chestnut highlighted efforts by the city to improve its economic development infrastructure, and said he believed the city was in a far better financial position than many communities because it started controlling spending back in 2007.
He did urge commissioners to tackle one issue that thus far has been elusive at City Hall: city funding for routine sidewalk maintenance. Chestnut stopped short of proposing a specific tax or fee to care for sidewalks — currently maintenance is the responsibility of property owners — but said the issue needs to be seriously examined.
“It is clear to me that we will be unable to maintain city sidewalks appropriately without some form of public funding for sidewalks,” Chestnut said.
Commissioner Aron Cromwell was elected as vice mayor Tuesday. If tradition holds, that puts Cromwell in line to become mayor in April 2011.