By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
After 58 years in public service, Mayor Dick Edwards gave his last State of the City address Tuesday, focusing on Bowling Green’s storied past, its challenging present and its hopeful future.
And as for Edwards himself, who started in public service during the Kennedy administration, his success has often depended on the “gospel” of President Harry Truman, who said, “it is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Nadine Edwards reminded her husband of that quote when he became mayor in 2012.
“Believe me, it works,” the mayor said.
So as Edwards listed off the accomplishments of the city in the past year, he made sure to spread around the credit.
He talked about the 27 ribbon cuttings for new and expanding businesses last year, the slow recovery of the city budget, and most of all, the city’s partnership with Bowling Green State University.
Since 1910, BGSU has been an “integral part of our economic and social fabric,” Edwards said. The two entities are “mutually interdependent. One cannot succeed without the other.”
It was the urging of past BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey that resulted in a joint vision study to update the city’s land use plan of 1987. That study led to new plans focusing especially on the city’s east side.
“It was a pressing community need – how to give new life and measures of hope and vitality to our sagging neighborhoods,” Edwards said.
Eventually, a Community Action Plan with its many “challenging recommendations” was adopted and plans were made for the East Wooster corridor.
But the city is up to the challenges, the mayor added.
“Now is the time for action,” Edwards said. “It will test our mettle as a community.”
And though the mayor is in his last year in office, he assured that isn’t resting yet. For 2019 is a “pivotal year.”
Bowling Green is primed for progress, Edwards said. The city has achieved a healthy bond rating and good credit score, it has strong employment numbers, and income tax collections that exceeded expectations.
Federal and state grant funding of more than $4 million last year is paying for major projects like the roundabouts on East Wooster at Interstate 75, plus roadwork on Conneaut, Fairview, Manville and in the Wood Bridge industrial park.
“We all know that substantial financial challenged abound,” he said, listing street maintenance and aging city buildings as continued concerns.
But Edwards is hopeful that newly sworn in Gov. Mike DeWine will revive some of the depleted local government funds from the state.
“This is welcome news to all municipalities in Ohio,” the mayor said.
In addition to the two roundabouts, Bowling Green will also take on a new look with a new building in City Park, the return of the brick inlay at the downtown intersection of Main and Wooster, and the completion of Wooster Green. Private donations for that town square have reached $368,000 of the $430,000 goal.
“The city is well positioned for continuing success,” he said.
Aiding in the progress, the mayor said, is the the city’s ethical governance, absence of partisan politics, commitment to sustainable energy (including the largest solar field in the state) and emphasis on economic development.
The biggest concern for local manufacturers is the shortage of skilled and unskilled workers, Edwards said. To help remedy this issue, the city has adopted the Welcome BG Initiative, to help legal immigrants feel welcome in Bowling Green.
The city’s continued goals are to preserve its downtown, and to bring new life to older neighborhoods. And, the mayor stressed, to support the school district.
“We are united as a city administration and City Council in supporting the Bowling Green School Board and its Superintendent Francis Scruci in its determined effort to secure funding for operating support and improved facilities.”
The mayor shared his State of the City audience with BGSU President Rodney Rogers – with both men talking about the continued partnership between the two entities.
As a public university, BGSU has responsibilities, Rogers said.
“I think we have a special obligation,” that includes serving the public good, partnering with the community, and performing research that it tied to the public good, he said.
These efforts result in bettering the city.
“This has allowed our community to be stronger,” Rogers said.
The East Wooster corridor improvements and the formation of Not In Our Town, are examples of teamwork between the city and university, he added.
“Great public universities are linked to their communities” by their obligations and mutual respect, Rogers said. “That is absolutely part of the DNA of BGSU.”
Rogers referenced the 4,000 visitors on campus for Presidents’ Day on Monday – with many of them being BGSU alum bringing their kids back to go to school here.
“It think that is a testimony to the community,” he said.
Rogers also praised the mayor’s dedication to Bowling Green.
“That is an amazing legacy,” Rogers said of Edward’s 58 years in public service. “That is unparalleled commitment as a public servant.”
“You’ve been a great partner,” Rogers said of both the mayor and his wife. “You are great role models of what public servants are.”