As our city’s new mayor, one of my first official duties was to present the State of the City address to our council and the public. Our city’s business association, IN WDSTK, was kind enough to host the event at the Woodstock Arts Theatre, with about 150 attendees. The State of the City is intended to provide an overview on the condition of our community and to set a vision moving forward.
My speech highlighted that our city is leading from a position of strength. With publications like Homes.com and Money Magazine ranking Woodstock among the best places to live in America, Safewise.com calling us one of the safest cities in the state, and an unemployment rate resting at a historic low of 2.8%, the state of our city is strong and growing stronger.
Our city’s revenues have outpaced projections and expenses, our reserves are growing and, most importantly, we have kept a tremendously responsible low-debt ratio, all while maintaining some of the lowest property tax rates in Georgia. Our population has grown from 4,500 in 1990 to more than 35,000 in 2020, which establishes us as the largest city in Cherokee County and the 29th largest city in Georgia. There is no way around it: We have built a place people want to be.
With growth has come some major challenges. We’ve seen strain on our transportation network and other city services. During my speech, I reminded the audience that though these problems must be solved, nearly every other community in America would do anything in their power to have these problems. We face the problems that come with success and an attractive community, rather than those with a declining city whose people can’t wait to leave. Our position is strong, and we can shift these problems into opportunities.
Despite nearly 50% growth in population over the past 10 years, our Woodstock Police Department effected a 44% reduction in crime in our city during the same period. While the metro Atlanta region is seeing historic crime spikes, our city has cut crime in half. Meanwhile, our award-winning fire department has seen a record number of calls, and they are meeting these needs with a newly established training officer and eye to the future.
Traffic and parking have become chief pressure points in our city over the past decade. Our public works department is proposing the first10-Year Comprehensive Transportation Plan in our city’s history. We’re among a small handful of cities statewide that will have established this level of long-term planning, and with projects like our Hub Transformation Project underway, to dramatically improve our downtown traffic flow, we’re well on our way to the next generation of Woodstock infrastructure.
We’ve long established Woodstock as a great place to live and play. We’re engaging in a concerted effort to begin attracting employers to our city to diversify our commercial mix and to encourage more of our residents to work a short distance from home. We’re not chasing Fortune 500 headquarters. We’re chasing small business employers who create 80% of the jobs in our state, many of whom already live in our city, and we’re going to bring their businesses back home. This will have a dramatic impact on our traffic footprint and, more importantly, our residents’ quality of life.
You can watch my entire address at www.mayorcaldwell.com/news/2022-state-of-the-city-address.
We’ve built our city into something special. I am calling on us to lean in. Together, we will build a community that is connected through walkable grid-streets and trail systems. Together, we will build a forward-looking city by ensuring our home ownership rates remain high, and our plans for the future are data-driven. Together, we will build a safe city that values the public safety personnel and public servants who work on our behalf each and every day.
Together, we will build a city that will be worth passing on to our children.
— Mayor Michael Caldwell
Michael Caldwell is the 31st mayor of Woodstock, a retired state legislator, member of the Georgia Technology Authority, partner at Black Airplane, husband to Katie, and father to Oliver, Elizabeth and Charlotte.