2012 a year of transition at City Hall
The death of Mayor John Brennan on Jan. 30 marked 2012 as a year of transition in Bexley city government.
Barely a month into his second term as mayor, Brennan lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.
"The months leading up to and following the loss of John were difficult times for everyone at the city," said Ben Kessler, who moved from being City Council president to acting mayor shortly before Brennan's death and was then appointed to fill the office by council.
"Employees lost a leader, and we all lost a colleague and a friend," he added. "A lot of credit is due to members of council and to directors and employees of the city for ensuring that through those difficult times, there was consistency of leadership, and core city functions continued seamlessly. I think the period of transition we went through illustrated how truly functional our city government is, that despite the loss and the uncertainty we were able to work together to thoughtfully and carefully transition leadership at the city."
Prior to Brennan's death, council members revamped city government, including council committee assignments.
Late in 2011, some council committees were restructured to enable a more strategic approach to city leadership.
"This has been an interesting year, as we've had the first council/mayor retreat in many years, and we've worked through the beginning process of crafting a joint vision and strategy for the city," Kessler said. "It's sometimes difficult to get diverse city leadership onto the same page and figure out how to clearly communicate and work towards clear goals and clear priorities, but I think we're making real progress."
Council also tackled the difficult task of trimming Bexley's expenses and refining the budget.
Kessler said the budget "started to come together" in 2012 following the loss of the estate tax and a 50-percent cut in Local Government Fund allocations from the state.
"A large component of our stabilization of the budget was the 2.5-percent income tax (approved by city residents), but that alone was never sufficient to correct Bexley municipal finances, and the difficult work of cutting more than $1 million annually without substantially impacting city services began in 2011 and has continued throughout this year," he said.
"It was an early goal of mine to complete the expense side reductions necessary to craft a balanced budget for 2013," Kessler said. "In doing so, we've been careful to avoid any one-time savings or budget tricks to balance one year just to have to think of new ways to balance the next. This budget sets a new baseline for expenditures and places us on a long-term sustainable track going forward."
Kessler praised the work that city directors did in helping achieve that goal.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that we are in a solid financial position today and into the foreseeable future," he said.
Among the city's major accomplishments cited by the mayor for 2012 were: the development of a new city website; a roll-out of the weekly Bexley Blast email notice; an increase in the number of vendors and customers at the Bexley Farmers Market; major improvement projects on Cassady and College avenues; and continued improvements to the Main Street Streetscape Project.
Other significant achievements in 2012 included receipt of a grant for kayaks and canoes; launching the Help Your Neighbor volunteer program; a change in policy to allow alcohol to be served at Jeffrey Mansion during private events; formation of the Livingston Consortium; winning the right to present the 2013 Ohio Chautauqua event; the return of the Bexley Art Walk and the first Bexley Family Community Campout at Jeffrey Park.
The city also was awarded grants for the Jeffrey Mansion walkway, Bexley branding, Alum Creek park planning and Movies on Main.
New businesses that opened their doors or began construction in 2012 included Vest Nest, Piccadilly, Terroir Wine Shop, Roberts Remedies, Salon Therapy,Tim Hortons and Maia Boutique.