Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard, during her third State of the City address, outlined the city's accomplishments as well as some short- and long-term goals.
Maggard prefaced her March 5 address with a summary, including video, of her January trip to India and Sri Lanka as part of a Fellows Program of the World Learning Organization.
"I think the most-important lesson I learned is to appreciate the similarities and differences in people, (but) it's about finding the things that make us similar to bring us together for a common cause," she said. "This idea of collaboration, cooperation and teamwork will be instrumental in our collective goal of moving Whitehall forward in 2014."
In reflecting on recent accomplishments and referring to the city's motto of "Opportunity is here," unveiled in late 2012, Maggard said in 2013 the city "clearly demonstrated this motto in the steps we took in building our business base and a strong future for our city."
Maggard cited the move of Priority Designs from a Gahanna site to a former automotive center on South Hamilton Road, as well as the occupancy of the former First Community Bank building by state agency Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, as two of the best strides made in 2013 to bolster the city's business base.
Maggard used her address to publicly announce the opening of a RiteRug distribution center and outlet store at the Airport South Commerce and Tech Park.
The mayor referred to the recent completion of a project to renovate or rebuild all five Whitehall City School District buildings and the future replacement of the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library as further examples of opportunity in Whitehall.
Besides outlining efforts in the commercial districts, Maggard spoke to her "commitment to growing and improving our residential corridors and neighborhoods."
As a companion to the My Home Program launched in late 2012 to assist homebuyers with financing and increase the number of owner-occupied residences in Whitehall, Maggard announced the Home Reinvestment Program.
"We must show a similar commitment to homeowners who have already chosen to make Whitehall their home," Maggard said of the pending program that would provide reimbursable grants to homeowners for exterior remodeling.
Maggard also articulated another method to improve and regulate the appearance of the city's neighborhoods: enforcement of property maintenance codes.
"I want to help improve our community by holding repeat offenders accountable for their actions and inactions," said Maggard, adding details of the initiative are forthcoming.
"(But) beautification cannot just be in our neighborhoods. We must also improve the main business corridors," she said, explaining the construction later this year of a landscaped median on East Main Street between Collingwood and Maplewood avenues.
"Soon, there will be no question whether you're in Whitehall or Columbus."
The $1.5 million project will be funded through tax-increment financing.
Maggard outlined two safety-oriented goals, announcing that Whitehall will be the first city in central Ohio to mandate employees complete a distracted-driving course, and a directive that Whitehall police dedicate additional officers to uproot drug trafficking and abuse.
"There is a problem that every community faces, and it has its tentacles in many families' lives. It's called drug addiction. There is too much of this in our community, and I'm sick of it," Maggard said.
"I'm putting dealers on notice: Do not come to Whitehall to do your business," she said. "Sooner or later, you will be caught, and we will not deal for a lighter sentence for your death-dealing activities.
Maggard concluded, "As you can tell, our journey took us far in 2013 and will take us even further this year. I look forward to working with (all) to make our city a better Whitehall."