The first-term mayor spoke during the Kennesaw Business Association's meeting at the KSU Center on Busbee Drive. The speech had been postponed from last week as a result of the snowstorm. Mathews said he has been proud of his accomplishments since his election in 2007.
"I believe my solid foundation of experience and demonstrated leadership is the ticket to our continued prosperity," said Mathews. "I believe I've kept my promise of building our hometown in spite of the challenges we've all faced both personally and professionally. There is still a lot of work to do, and we're slowly gaining momentum."
Like most cities, Kennesaw has had to adjust its budget as a result of the economic downturn. The city faced a revenue shortfall that Mathews said officials predicted several years ago. Fiscal year 2010 general fund revenues totaled $21.24 million and the city's expenditures were $21.14 million.
Operating expenditures were cut, purchases delayed, computer technology used more effectively, city employee wages were frozen, overtime was reduced, and employees were cross-trained to perform other duties, he said.
"We were able to trim the budget without substantially affecting services," Mathews said. "So in spite of the economy, we are moving ahead to prepare for the turn around we know is coming."
Mathews spent much of his address highlighting goals in several key areas that he said his administration made four years ago and has largely met, including improving and growing downtown Kennesaw, increasing the quality of life in the city, and making the community safer.
A number of downtown projects have been completed or are moving ahead, the mayor said. A $3 million pedestrian underpass opened last summer, the Trackside Grill expansion should be finished in March, and progress has been made on the 5-acre mixed-use development behind City Hall that includes a parking deck.
By mid-2011, the 13,000-square-feet Jiles Road retail development is expected to be completed, Mathews said. In February, the Legacy Park culvert project should be completed, he said. He also mentioned that progress is being made on SPLOST projects such as the Jiles Road bridge and the Jiles Road at Cherokee Street intersection improvements.
"The final stage of Jiles will be starting construction in the spring of this year," Mathews said.
In addition, the annual Kennesaw Farmer's Market had a record number of vendors and will continue in the spring, he said.
Sixteen new businesses started up in Kennesaw last year, including an insurance company, fitness center, tanning salon and pizza restaurant. The application and issuance of business licenses in the city have remained steady, Mathews said.
The city of Kennesaw annexed roughly 50 acres of land in 2010, the mayor reported, thanks to the expansion of Beaumont Products on Big Shanty Drive, which has created 80 new jobs; the planned relocation of Kennesaw Charter School into a 100,000-square-foot facility on Cobb Parkway; and a Kennesaw State University student housing project at Shiloh and Frey roads, which construction will begin on this spring.
Mathews touted a 14-percent decrease in the city's crime rate in 2010, the lowest since 2002. Kennesaw is the only city in Cobb in which no homicide has occurred in the past two years.
The mayor also made note of the Kennesaw Police Department's focus on underage drinking and its crackdown on prescription drug abuse via monitoring pain management clinics. He also praised police, the public works department, and the 911 center's efforts in helping the city through the recent snowstorm.
"We in Kennesaw are fortunate to have a talented and hardworking team who always gives us their best," said Mathews. "We asked them to work longer and harder, and to do more with less, and they responded positively at every occasion."
After the speech, John Loud, Kennesaw Business Association president, praised the work that Mathews has done. In particular, moving forward the construction of the parking deck that is much needed to accommodate visitors whenever events are held downtown.
"I was very impressed," Loud said. "I think he's done a fantastic job up there in some very trying and troubled times."