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From LangelyElecteds.org: Much To Be Thankful For

November 20th, 2012 at Tue, 20th, 2012 at 9:32 am by Rene Neff

Tis the season to be thankful which may explain the reason I woke up this morning composing a thank you letter to Langley. This community has so much to be thankful for and I have had the good fortune to witness some of the highlights in the last few years.

Let me start with the City of Langley. Being a City Council representative during two previous administrations and now the first year of a third I have had a unique opportunity to see our local government in action. The two previous administrations did an excellent job hiring a dynamite staff! The former Mayors, City Councils and staff have stewarded the city through hard times and although we downsized our staff we maintained a budget that never went in the red. Consequently we are currently in a good place financially and have a very strong and competent staff to build upon.

Enter Mayor Kwarsick. Sitting at the council meeting last night I was struck by what an amazing job he has done in his first year in office. Yes there have been bumps along the way, but as we emerge from 2012 our City is poised to accomplish some amazing feats! The budget that the Council, staff and Mayor put together is truly a synergetic effort that all contributed to. Kwarsick has done an excellent job as a part time mayor empowering our staff to take leadership roles in various ways.

Jeff Arrango, our Director of Community Planning, led an impressive effort that gathered community input and support for a new Second Street design. Since the roadway needed to be rebuilt it was a perfect opportunity to ask our community how we could improve the street. The grant gave us access to some of the best street planning advisors in the N.W. who helped the community develop a strong and realistic design.

Challis Stringer is our Public Works Director but is also functioning as the Mayor’s Assistant since Kwarsick delegates many duties to her. At first I was skeptical of this arrangement I have to admit, worrying that it would put too much pressure on her and other staff members. But last night at our Council meeting as I witnessed the money from grants pouring into our city to do public works projects, I realized that Larry was a master mentor and Ms. Stringer has risen to the occasion in a very professional way. After seeing the smile on Challis’ face when I congratulated her upon receiving several state and federal grants my skepticism vanished.

The 2013 budget is very aggressive and most of the money for projects that are included in it will need to come in the form of grants from agencies outside the City. Thanks so Challis’ efforts we have already been awarded some very competitive grants that will help us move forward on our Second Street Design project! We also have several more grants out there with a very good chance of being funded that will help us improve several of the streets that are in need of repair and are on our priority list.

Mayor Kwarsick also has pulled together some very important coalitions that will ultimately really help our community. He’s leading the effort to get Langley, the Port of So. Whidbey, the City of Mulkilteo and Sound Transit, working together on a parking facility at the Mulkilteo ferry. Pooling money, grants, expertise and ideas the group is working on a parking plan that could have a big impact on Langley’s future. Larry is working with the County and the Fair Grounds’ Board to come up with a plan for an improved RV Park at the Fair Grounds. This idea not only will benefit the Fair’s bottom line, it will bring tourists year round to Langley who will undoubtedly shop and eat downtown. Kwarsick has also been courting some businesses that would be a good fit for Langley and he’s been working on a plan for affordable housing, with the ultimate goal of attracting a younger demographic to our town.

So three cheers to the City of Langley! It is doing well and good things are happening because of it!

Another wonderful thing I have been honored to witness is the development of a new non-profit organization called the Langley Main Street Association (LMSA). It has taken two years, a ton of work and some very persistent and hard working volunteers to pull it off but we are now officially a Main Street Association registered with the State of WA. This designation allows LMSA to receive B&O taxes from any business in the area that would like to donate to us. This is fundamentally such a great thing because LMSA is totally devoted to improving the downtown core by; encouraging businesses, new and old, improving the town’s looks or design, capitalizing and educating the public on its history, and generally working toward a strong economic future for downtown Langley.

The City of Langley supported, encouraged and garnered support for Main Street through all of the last two administrations and has now become one of the first contributors to LMSA by donating its Utility Tax. This money usually goes to the state and is redistributed, but instead it will now come to LMSA, benefitting our local economy directly. In this way the City is able to help our downtown core, empowering volunteers who will take a bit of a load off the City by helping with beautification, which could potentially benefit the City in future tax revenue as Langley improves economically. Those beautiful daffodils that greet us in the spring, the pretty flower pots, garden beds and hanging baskets will all be LMSA efforts to make the town look great and put a smile on folks when they come into Langley. An inviting town encourages people to come back! As we slip into 2013 we can all look forward to learning about the history of this place as LMSA spearheads Langley’s Centennial year long Celebrations!

So, I just want to give a shout out to Langley! Good things are happening here, new businesses such as our budding Wine Tasting industry is taking off, old businesses are hanging in there and continue to garner community support as residents shop local, and there is a renewed energy in town. It has been said sometimes people come out of hard times better for it. In this case our community is poised to have good things happen in Langley thanks to the people who care about our town and give of their time, energy, creativity and heart. GO LANGLEY!!

 

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