The atmosphere at the State of the City Address in Gadsden Tuesday, November 7, could accurately be described as “energized.”
The energy was evident in the choice of music before and after the event — well known rock anthems.
Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford took to the stage shortly after “Eye of the Tiger” played across the speakers at The Venue at Coosa Landing Tuesday night.
This was Ford’s first State of the City Address and it comes at the end of his first year as mayor.
Locally well-known radio news anchor Jay Holland was the host for the event. He told the crowd of about 400 individuals that the night would go differently than many had envisioned.
Instead of Ford standing behind a podium to deliver a speech about the progress of Gadsden over the last year, Holland and Ford sat in over-sized chairs while Ford was interviewed by Holland.
Ford answered questions about industrial developments, road projects and future plans. He also teased some big announcements coming after the first of the year. According to Ford, the city is waiting on the completion of a master plan before announcing new large projects. The master plan is due to be completed in January.
“The city has a AA+ bond rating,” Ford said. “We’re going to take out a bond and do what you [tax payers] want us to do. Whatever that may be. It’s your tax dollars.”
Despite a few purchases for a couple million dollars for a new city hall and settling some financial disputes, Ford said the city is doing well financially, thanks in part to the previous administration. The city just approved the 2024 budget of roughly $60 million in October.
“The city is firing on all cylinders,” Ford said. “We’re moving ahead.”
Ford took time during the informal chat to put the focus on the members of the Gadsden City Council and various department heads within the city.
“I’ve put y’all in a tough spot more than once,” Ford said. “I know I drive some of you crazy. I’ve asked for some big things for the city. They do what’s best for you, what’s best for the city.”
One of the main talking points throughout the night was the need to clean up the city.
“We’ve had a few conversations with different companies trying to recruit them to Gadsden and one thing we keep hearing is ‘clean up your city.’ When we have trash and garbage piled on the sides of the roads and things like that, it makes us look bad. We aren’t going to let it slide. We have passed ordinances to address some of it. We have got to clean up our city. It is time for a paradigm shift.”
Ford also addressed the Interstate 759 extender project and the delays it has encountered.
“It’s coming,” Ford said. “The state is having to go through the process of purchasing the land and the homes under eminent domain and there are some historical parts that they are having to figure out. It’s happening slower than I would like, but things like this are slow. I’d estimate that you’ll be driving on that new road over to 278 in three or four years.”
Ford also discussed the Highway 411 relocation project in vague terms and mentioned the groundbreaking of the UltraSafe Nuclear manufacturing plant happening after the new year.
He also thanked the citizens of Gadsden for their patience as his administration gets up to speed and he thanked the employees of the city for their hard work.