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Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling offered a message of inclusion in the annual State of the City address Thursday.
“We are, and continue to be, an inclusive and welcoming community to all,” said Freiling during his opening remarks. “Rather than emphasize differences, we will celebrate them. Rather than excluding anyone, we will look to include everyone. After all, a community is a collection of individuals, each of whom has something to add to the social, intellectual, cultural, athletic and human mosaic.”
Thursday’s State of the City address was Freiling’s first as mayor. Freiling had served as vice mayor for six years and was appointed mayor in July after the retirement of his predecessor, Clyde Haulman.
Freiling said that his proudest moment was “watching this council come together as a team to meet the challenges of the Goals, Initiatives, and Outcomes process.”
He added that he was proud that members of the council could respectfully disagree as they worked together to achieve their goals. He praised the city’s staff for their daily efforts in the service of the community.
The Goals, Initiatives, and Outcomes are the city’s strategic objectives and are revised every two years. According to Freiling, the city is entering the implementation phase of the 2017-18 GIOs, and the GIOs development process provided a “platform for all voices to be heard” because they reflect direct community input.
“It is one more opportunity for people to understand that they are in the driver’s seat,” Freiling said in his address. “It’s an opportunity for us to communicate to the community the plan we’ve developed with their input and how we hope to apply that.”
Freiling stated that the city faces new challenges and new opportunities, but he believes that Williamsburg is resilient and well-positioned. He said that many of the city’s challenges are not unlike those felt throughout the nation in the wake of the recession and the transition from a production to service economy.
Freiling said the city’s partners in the College of William & Mary, WJCC Schools, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the tourism industry face challenges meeting growth demands, and listed the city’s housing market and an increasing number of families on Medicaid as difficulties faced by the city.
He highlighted the city’s purchase of three stagnant hotel properties, the creation of the Greater Williamsburg Partnership with James City and York Counties as reasons for optimism, and a downtown vibrancy study as drivers of economic growth.
“It is a privilege to report that the state of the city is strong, forward-looking, and seeking a vibrant future for all its residents,” said Freiling in his closing remarks. “But let us not forget that in order to go forward we must all do our part and we must do it in concert.”