Running a City government is a multilayered process, a combination of day-to-day operations that keep things running smoothly and milestone projects that help us grow and thrive.
During last year’s State of the City address, I highlighted the work that our employees do each day to make Victoria a great place to live. This year, I decided to focus on key projects and initiatives that move our City forward. Victoria will celebrate our bicentennial next year, and these projects give us all the more reason to celebrate and look forward to a prosperous future.
We continue to pour funding into our streets, investing $27 million in residential street projects and $11.7 million in thoroughfares as part of next year’s capital improvement plan. The plan also includes an aquifer storage and recovery project to safeguard our water supply.
We have also secured almost $20 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation funding. This funding will be used for drainage improvements at Lone Tree Acres, hardening of the new 911 dispatch center and upgrades to our water system’s SCADA monitoring equipment.
We are also undertaking master plans for our sports facilities, Community Center, active transportation (pedestrians and cyclists) and The Texas Zoo. These plans will help guide much-needed upgrades to our facilities and services.
Another initiative I am especially proud of is the Mayor’s Youth Council, although I do not take full credit for it. Two local high school students, Emily Dickinson and Katie Jane Kopecky, approached me last year with the idea of creating a student organization dedicated to civic involvement. I am pleased to be able to work with our youth and help them become engaged citizens.
We are also ramping up our collaborations with other entities, including the member organizations of the Victoria Economic Development Corporation—which, despite its name, incorporates government agencies throughout our region. We know that people from nearby cities come to Victoria and spend money here, so thinking about economic development from a regional perspective just makes sense.
This spirit of collaboration can be seen in our efforts to work with Victoria County and other stakeholders to boost the Victoria Regional Airport. In 2022, we commissioned a study on the airport’s management system, and the consultant recommended an independent airport commission to manage the airport operations and an FAA joint sponsorship model under City and County leadership to provide governance of the airport.
Recognizing that the airport is critical to our region’s long-term economic growth, we have been meeting with the Commissioners Court to work out an agreeable governance model. The process is taking longer than expected as we work out the financial details, but we remain committed to supporting this vital asset.
We are also nearing the finish line on multiple long-term projects: The duck pond and the dog park are both on track to open this year, and the Ben Wilson Corridor Improvement Project will wrap up early next year. We are excitedly awaiting the groundbreaking for the new public safety headquarters in 2024, and we are also making swift progress on the De Leon Plaza Expansion Project.
The newly expanded De Leon Plaza will be front and center when we celebrate our bicentennial date on April 13, 2024. Although we are working with our partners to schedule events and activities throughout the year, April 13 will be a special day since it marks the exact date that Martín de León received permission to found a colony here.
We will begin with a communitywide service project, the Victoria Day of Caring, followed by a dedication ceremony at the plaza for a new statue of Martín de León and his wife, Patricia de la Garza. Finally, we will host the Bicentennial Ball, a festive evening of food, drinks, live entertainment and more.
This is just a sample of all the exciting things happening in the City of Victoria. To view my full State of the City address, visit www.victoriatx.gov/stateofthecity, and to stay informed about current and ongoing projects, visit www.victoriatx.gov/newsroom.
Jeff Bauknight is the mayor of the City of Victoria.