It largely was cheers, congratulations and chair changing at Lawrence City Hall on Tuesday as two new faces joined the commission and outgoing Mayor Mike Amyx delivered the annual State of the City address.
“The state of our city is extremely sound,” Amyx said.
Amyx highlighted the city’s efforts to take over ownership of the former Farmland Industries property and convert it into a new business and industrial park.
He also said the city’s work to support the new bioscience and technology incubator on Kansas University’s West Campus was another sign that the city was positioning itself well for a rebound in the economy.
“Economic times continue to be tight and revenues remain pretty flat,” Amyx said. “Despite these challenges, I strongly feel the City Commission has made wise choices and has provided resources where they are needed most.”
Amyx, who will remain on the commission, also closed out his one-year term as mayor. Commissioners unanimously elected Commissioner Aron Cromwell to serve as mayor. Cromwell also sounded a theme that the city has done well considering the problems in the broader economy. The city has added to its cash reserves during the last four years, has avoided large-scale layoffs of employees and has continued to make community investments — most recently winning voter approval for an $18 million expansion of the Lawrence Public Library.
“The last two years I have been on this commission, we have been having an economic firestorm,” Cromwell said. “But because of the leadership that has sat up here before me, we’re in a pretty good position. I don’t know that folks realize how fortunate we are in Lawrence.”
Newly-elected commissioners Hugh Carter and Bob Schumm both joined the commission on Tuesday. Incumbent Mike Dever was sworn in for a second four-year term after finishing second in last week’s election. Schumm, as the top vote-winner in the recent election, unanimously was elected to serve as vice-mayor. That puts him in position to serve a one-year term as mayor in April 2012.
“It feels good to be here. It has been 18 years since I’ve last been here,” said Schumm, who has served two previous stints on the commission, the most recent from 1987 to 1993.
Rob Chestnut and Lance Johnson both ended their terms on the commission. Neither Chestnut — who served four years — nor Johnson — who served two — sought re-election.
Both outgoing commissioners praised the work of city staff members and said Lawrence residents were served well by its elected leaders.
“You guys are based on principles,” Johnson said to fellow commissioners. “I was very blessed to serve in that environment. Not one decision was made here for selfish reasons.”
Chestnut said he expects that same type of service will continue.
“This is a great city that has a great heart that really believes in being a community,” Chestnut said. “And that’s why no matter what we face, we’ll have a great future.”