State of the City Address
Mayor Kenneth Gulley delivered the state of the City of Bessemer Address at the Bessemer Civic Center on Monday evening, January 30, 2023.
The Mayor highlighted the beginning of a new term for himself and members of the Bessemer City Council. Gulley, who is beginning his fourth term as Mayor, said there are many new faces occupying roles in many important positions in the city, including new council members, new members of the city’s school board, and new representatives for Bessemer in Montgomery.
The city also has a new City Attorney and Gulley said he plans to name a new Police Chief and new Finance Director/Treasurer for the city very soon. Gulley introduced new members of his executive team in Chief of Staff Christopher Warren, Executive Assistant Ann Benson and receptionist Tiffany Taylor.
“This is truly a new day in Bessemer,” the Mayor said. “But our commitment to our city must remain the same. We want a Bessemer that is great for business, great for families, great for seniors, great for the working man and woman, and a Bessemer that is a great place to live, work and play.”
Mayor Gulley pointed to several improvements within the city over the past year. The city’s unemployment rate remains low and is in line with the national average due to the recruitment of new jobs and industry, he said. There is growth in Bessemer’s commercial sector as the city approved some $66 million in permits for commercial projects in 2022, including three new hotels. New homes are being planned for several areas of the city, including 242 new homes off of Murphy’s Lane and the construction of a new subdivision by Habitat for Humanity in the Hopewell community. There is also on-going revitalization and remodeling of homes within several city neighborhoods, he said.
The Mayor highlighted strong city finances, noting that the new City Council approved a $70 million general fund operating budget in December. The city experienced a three percent growth in revenue in fiscal year 2022, but also expended 5% less than anticipated in the same period.
“That is a savings to you, the taxpayers,” Mayor Gulley said. “We remain committed to being shrewd managers of your tax dollars. That will not change in the upcoming years.”
Other highlights from the State of the City included:
- The city’s crime rate dropped another 6.3 percent in 2022, marking the 10th straight year of declines in major crimes in Bessemer. Some 310 illegal firearms were removed from the city’s streets in 2022 and the Bessemer Police Department dismantled a major drug operation resulting in the arrest of some 19 individuals on state and federal gun charges.
- The city made significant upgrades in its fire protection capacity in 2022 through the purchase of a 109-foot ladder truck and three new pumper engines, maintaining a Class 1 ISO rating. There were no fire-related deaths in Bessemer in 2022. The city added seven homegrown firefighters to its ranks through a program sponsored by the fire department which is training local high school students for positions within the department.
- Construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting the Bessemer Recreation Center to the city’s Rail-Trail should be completed by the third quarter/early fourth quarter of this year, he said. The project is being funded at 80% with a grant from the state of Alabama.
- The city is beginning an $8 million paving project this year and is using about $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to do additional paving in some neighborhoods.
- A new streetscape project along 19th Street in Downtown Bessemer is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.
- The Bob Sykes BBQ and Blues Festival and the Central Alabama Caribbean American Organization (CACAO) Festival both returned to Downtown Bessemer this past year, bringing with them thousands of visitors.
Finally, the Mayor encouraged residents of Bessemer to work with city departments to maintain a clean city, encouraging residents to take advantage of cleanup days and events sponsored by the city’s Stormwater Department, such as the Hazardous Household Waste Collection Day and the Valley Creek Cleanup
“The State of our city is strong as we seek to face the challenges of tomorrow,” Gulley said. “With God’s help, and by working together, I believe we can face the challenges of tomorrow and continue the great progress in our city.”
The full text of his speech is available here: