A look at Sugar Land’s 12th annual State of the City Address (SOCA) on Jan. 24 is one of the ways to call attention to successes and plans for the city’s future direction. The takeaways this go round at the breakfast event – organized by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and held at the Sugar Land Marriott – focused on the city’s commitment for enjoying a safer city than ever before and from a fiscal perspective, for strategies that keep Sugar Land moving forward with residents paying less for better services.
Also, we were reminded of the importance of being counted on April 1 for the 2020 Census, which we know that for the first time can be done online “and even on mobile devices,” advises Mayor Joe Zimmerman.
Our water, which comes from the Brazos River, is the best. This is not just current-day lingo, but it’s been named the best-tasting water in Texas. Also in a North American competition, Sugar Land’s water is the second-best tasting. But because a Canadian village that gets its water from a glacier took the top spot, Zimmerman maintains our water is the best-tasting in the U.S. There’s even a water bottle label – Sugar Land, King of Water – that boasts this distinction, at least in a video shown at the SOCA!
Sugar Land’s roots of success are pretty much summarized as core strengths that include conservative financial management. With more than 40 years of municipal government experience, retiring City Manager Allen Bogard on this last official day of duty in that capacity at the SOCA, said the city ended the year with a $4 million surplus in the general fund.
Successes, he said, also included the property tax increase adopted in 2019. It is now 33 cents per $100 valuation and offset by the residential home exemption, increased from 10 to 12 percent. This will help fund projects on the books for infrastructure rehabilitation, like sidewalks, streets, parks, drainage and bridges. Bogard, who became city manager in 2001 following David Neely, also at the annual event, acknowledged the company town’s history driven by vision, much as it is today. So, what’s next for Sugar Land, the Sugar Land way? There’s a new city manager at the helm, Mike Goodrum. This former city employee who’s returned last served as a city manager in Florida. Zimmerman refers to Goodrum as a problem solver who exemplifies the Sugar Land way as a collaborative and innovative leader. The next major chapter in Sugar Land’s future has already started with Goodrum leading a top-ranked digital city gearing up to discuss the city’s vision next month at a city council meeting. City charter revisions may be in the making and could be on a future election ballot, a new study on the erosion of land alongside the Brazos River may be more revealing than just raising awareness but also developing solutions, and there’s also talk about mobility, a resident priority undergoing a shift. The focus, we’re told, will be about moving people instead of vehicles. A new mobility master plan with a citizen task force to soon be formed will guide that effort.
The SOCA was a time to celebrate Sugar Land’s successes and future direction to some extent, and also to say thank you and goodbye to Bogard as he was presented with the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Gala award. Zimmerman said Bogard was being recognized for his investment in relationships, the real measure of his contributions to the city.
A trip to Sugar Land city hall these days is probably in order. If you have a moment, visit the atrium at its entrance and admire the newly installed 60th anniversary hanging artwork entitled “Cultivate.” It epitomizes the notion of preparing and fostering for future use … no doubt, the Sugar Land way!