Mayor Kendall W. Lane
3 Washington St.
Keene, NH 03431
JANUARY 1, 2018 INAUGURAL ADDRESS:
Good Afternoon. I would like to welcome you all here today and thank you for coming to this opening meeting of the 2018-2019 session of the Keene City Council.
This begins my 4th term as your Mayor and I thank the voters of Keene for giving me this high honor. I am only the 2nd Mayor in the history of Keene to have been elected for 4 terms and it has been a great privilege to be recognized by the community in this way.
I would like to recognize my wife, Molly whose tolerance, patience and wisdom have guided me through my time as Mayor.
I would like to extend my appreciation to Med Kopczynski who stepped in as City Manager during the recruitment process and served, not just as an interim City Manager, but as a creative, innovative leader for the staff and City Council.
I would also like to recognize our new City Manager, Elizabeth Dragon, who comes to us from Franklin, New Hampshire, and we look forward to working with her for many years to come.
I want to thank those members of the staff here today and particularly Patty Little, City Clerk and Tom Mullins, City Attorney. It is through their expert assistance and direction that the City runs smoothly and the policies of the City Council are accomplished.
Finally, I want to congratulate all those who have been sworn in today and will be serving the City for the next 2 years, and in particular, our newest City Councilor, Maggie Rice, who will be joining us from Ward 4.
Today, we look forward to the next 2 years as we continue to work to help the City thrive.
We are working to develop a new Land Use Code to make this City more welcoming to small businesses and future redevelopment. While large developers have the resources to comply with our requirements, small projects meet major hurdles. A process that is simpler and easier to follow will assist those who want to do business or make improvements here in Keene.
Our Downtown faces challenges that we need to address as we move forward. We are seeing welcome redevelopment taking place on the east side of Downtown with Washington Place and MoCo Arts being developed. We are also seeing welcome redevelopment on the west side of Downtown with the renovation and expansion of the library. But it has been 30 years since we last examined the Downtown and much has changed. Demands of pedestrians and bicyclists, increased traffic, and needs for parking face us. More people living close to Downtown require amenities and open space to accommodate them. The arts play an important role in our economy and place an increasing demand on our Downtown. We must move forward to plan for the future of a Downtown that is not just a retail center but is a cultural center for the region.
We continue our efforts to adjust for a changing climate. As we face more and stronger storms, flooding and air quality issues, we must change our way of doing business. Alternative transportation and alternative energy sources will become part of our future.
Finally, we must continue to support and expand our economy. We want our local industries to be successful and to grow. We want areas of the City to be redeveloped to provide the housing and jobs for the future.
We have created our Economic Development Zones we have designated areas of the city that qualify for 79-E tax deferral and we are moving forward to encourage development of the airport. These are our lifeblood for the future. They are not, however, without challenges. Our employment base is not strong. We need to make the City attractive for a younger workforce with housing and recreation that is attractive for them.
As we work to create a 21st century business environment, we also need to create a high-speed internet network that will support local businesses and allow people to conduct business on a remote basis.
The City Manager and I have been visiting local employers, meeting with Keene State and Antioch and we will be meeting with Cheshire Career Center to work collaboratively to establish programs to encourage graduates to stay in Keene and fill the available jobs. This will not solve the problem, but it is part of the long term solution.
The role that our educational facilities play in our future is significant. They are a tremendous asset for the community as we go forward and their strength and success is critical to the future of our community.
We must continue our efforts to combat the substance addiction crisis that has affected our City. This impacts the crime rate, the economic vitality and the health and welfare of our fellow citizens. It is a public health epidemic that we must all work together to solve.
We recently held the municipal elections in which 19% of our citizens voted. Elections have significance. In this election all incumbent City Councilors running for re-election were returned. This tells us the citizens want stability, they want us to continue the direction we are going, and they want us to continue the culture of transparency and citizen involvement in what actions we take. We must continue our collaborative efforts to include our citizens in the decision making process as we tackle the challenges of the future.
Our goals are clear – to attract a 21st century workforce, to make Keene the best place to raise a family, to obtain employment, to shop, and to go to school.
To achieve this and to maintain our quality of life is the challenge. Over the next 2 years we need to work together, not just as a City Council, but as a community made up of many people who care deeply about this City with a unified goal and a common purpose to chart the course for the future of our region and our community.