Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Did you get a chance to watch Williamsburg’s State of the City Address? Here are the highlights

Mayor Doug Pons announced the visitor center campus as a  potential location for the future regional sports complex during Thursday night’s State of the City address. (WYDaily/Courtesy of viriginia.org)

The city of Williamsburg aired its first ever virtual State of the City Address Thursday night.

The hour-long video consisted of pre-recorded statements from City Council members, Mayor Doug Pons, along with statements from William & Mary President Katherine Rowe, and Cliff Fleet, president of Colonial Williamsburg.

The core of the address was to inspire residents to imagine what the next 20 years of Williamsburg will look like, bringing up ideas and propositions from the city’s strategic planning retreat a few months ago.

Pons announced the city’s new vision statement, “One Williamsburg, courageously leading, innovating a modern city, prioritizing safety and wellness, engaging with our partners, while connecting with the world.”

That statement outlines six individual goals for imagining the future of Williamsburg. During the address, each City Council member expanded upon a goal from the statement.

While explaining the meaning behind the first goal, “One Williamsburg,” Pons spoke of the removal of the Confederate monument from Bicentennial Park this past summer.

“The division it represented did not align with the city’s stated value and did not belong on public property,” he said.

He announced the City Council has asked staff to pursue the development of an African American Heritage Trail. He said this trail would feature prominent locations and monuments to Williamsburg’s history, including the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

He did not give a date as to when the memorial will be completed but said City Council would continue to support it in any way they could.

“It will take more than simply declaring that we want everyone, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, income, sexual orientation, gender ID, or religion, to be treated fairly. We need to be actively pursuing it,” he said.

While speaking about the goal of “prioritizing safety and wellness,” Vice Mayor W. Pat Dent announced the city will also institute a police chief citizen advisory board. He said the board will help inform police department decisions regarding policy, reporting, and strategic planning.

“Our city is far ahead of the curve on many of the issues that have caused said strife on the national level, but we cannot become complacent or take it for granted,” Dent said.

But those weren’t the only big announcements Thursday night.

Pons also announced the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center campus as a potential location for a regional sports complex.

The community has been planning since 2014 to include sport tourism as a driver for visitation, Pons said.

“The Visitor Center campus has the space, the infrastructure, and the proximity to the interstate that we think will help the sports tourism industry further expand in the area,” he said.

But how did the city reach that conclusion?

After the city established a tourism development grant program made by using a portion of funding from Historic Triangle sales tax, the Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association applied for a study, finance and construction of the complex. City Council members included this as an initiative to pursue over two years ago, Pons said.

“While there is still much work to be done before a new sports complex can be added to the site, we are excited about the progress made after so many years of study,” he said.

Want to watch the State of the City address yourself? Click here to watch the video.

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