Three years after being swept into office on promises of lower taxes, improvements to infrastructure and giving voters an increased voice in major city issues, Big Spring Mayor Tommy Duncan is leaving office figuring he batted three-for-three.
On the eve of his surrendering the mayor's gavel to Larry McLellan, Duncan points with pride to the fact that the city made major movement on what he considered the key issues facing the municipality.
“When I ran for office (in 2010), my campaign platform was in three parts — I said taxes were too high in Big Spring; that we weren't investing enough in our infrastructure; and I wanted the public to have more of a voice in major issues,” Duncan said.
On the first issue, there can be no doubt Duncan delivered on his promise — the city tax rate has shrunk from $1.02 per $100 valuation when he took office to the current rate of 86 cents.
“We're the only taxing entity in Howard County that reduced its tax rate below effective levels (the rate which would have raised the same amount of money as the previous year) for three straight years,” Duncan said. “In other words, we took in less money from the taxpayers three years in a row.”
The city's major accomplishment on the infrastructure front during Duncan's time in office was the passage of an $11 million bond issue to finance renovations to the city's water treatment plant and wastewater treatment facility.
But the city didn't stop there, he added.
“We've invested several million dollars in water line replacements,” Duncan said. “In addition, we've purchased three new trash collection trucks, along with several police cars and other city vehicles. And money has been set aside for the new city landfill (which will be located adjacent to the current landfill).”
Infrastructure will continue to be a major concern for the city in the future, he added.
“Housing and infrastructure will remain major issues for years to come,” he said. “But I'm pleased we've identified some developers who want to build apartment complexes, plus a company which wants to develop the Colonial Hills area. That will result in 89 new single-family houses for Big Spring.”
To fulfill his final campaign promises — giving citizens a bigger voice on major issues — Duncan spearheaded efforts on three major referendums during his term as mayor: Elections on term limits for city officials; the aforementioned water treatment bond; and an election in November 2012 to change the economic development corporation's charter to allow tax money to be used for city improvement projects. Both the term limit and bond issues passed convincingly, while voters overwhelmingly decided to keep the EDC's charter unchanged.
Duncan conceded his term had its share of ups and downs.
“Of course, not everything I supported passed, nor did I expect it to,” he said. “Council members had their own pertinent concerns during that time and they voted their conscience.”
As he leaves office, Duncan said he is thankful for the support he's received the past three years.
“My wife and I can't thank our pastor and our friends enough for their support during the time I was mayor,” he said. “I'm also very thankful to the city staff for the hard work they've done for the community.”