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Connect 2017 features Finley’s ‘State of the City’

At Connect 2017, Mayor Paul Finley prepares to ‘bury the hatchet’ as a gesture of cooperation with Madison City Council. CONTRIBUTED/Madison Chamber of Commerce
At Connect 2017, Mayor Paul Finley prepares to ‘bury the hatchet’ as a gesture of cooperation with Madison City Council. CONTRIBUTED/Madison Chamber of Commerce

MADISON – Mayor Paul Finley, who returned to office in November 2016, presented his “State of the City” address at the Connect 2017 gala on Jan. 27.

Madison Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, held at The Davidson Center for Space Exploration at U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

In starting his remarks, Finley said “the ‘state of our city’ is strong and getting stronger. The tone of our city has changed for the positive” with a focus on communication and cooperation.

Finley named guidelines for conducting city business:

* “Doing the right thing, regardless if it’s hard.”

* “We want to win. In city government, that means you’re focused on your mission statement,” Finley said.

* “Subject matter expertise … Nobody comes to City Hall to take a tour. You come to get something done. We’ve empowered our employees” to make citizens happy, he said.

* “Manage finances with fiscal responsibility … We don’t have Huntsville money, but we’re doing OK.”

* “Safety in the city.”

Concerning subject experts, he praised Administrative Assistant Kim Lindsey who has worked for seven mayors for her in-depth knowledge about city business. He commended City Administrator Taylor Edge for supporting day-to-day operations at City Hall.

Finley aired a video for the look of Madison, with a flashback to 1980 when the population was 4,000 and City Hall existed in the current location of Main Street Cafe.

He then discussed repairing relationships with City Council. “You can’t manage municipal government without Mayor and Council working together hand in hand.”

Finley picked up a hatchet, like the one he and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle literally buried at Indian Creek Greenway to symbolize a better working relationship between cities. Finley had asked council members to bring a bucket of dirt from their seven districts. Each council member emptied their dirt to bury the 2017 hatchet, promising more civil behavior between council and Mayor.

“Working together, we’ll make a difference in the City of Madison,” Finley said.

“We have big projects … a fire chief, police chief, communications specialist and more.” Finley then explained his open door policy to schedule two hours every two weeks for residents to visit his office. Also, “open work sessions … allow us to talk in far more detail (than council meetings).”

He hopes for assistance from Metropolitan Planning Organization. “We in Madison don’t have the level of expertise (to know) where the different funding comes into that organization,” he said.

Finley described the work to manage growth as “a great problem to have. The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce will lead to effort to secure more jobs.”

“Limestone County is an open canvas … 10 years from now that canvas will be covered. We need to find a road structure that makes sense to all communities,” he said.

Finley aired a video in which he asked Madison children about their priorities in spending city money. The boys and girls would pay for a nature preserve, water park, shopping mall, restaurants, a veterinarian for homeless individuals’ pets, books and a new elementary school to alleviate overcrowding and portables at Mill Creek Elementary School.

“I can’t wait until this time next year to tell you what all has happened in the past year,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Finley said that one person was noticeably absent from his family’s table. “We have to address the ‘elephant in the room,’” referring to his wife Dr. Julie Finley, who was arrested for DUI and reckless driving on Jan. 18.

“I’m usually pretty good at humor, but there’s no room for humor in the incident that happened last week. We can’t change the past but will focus on the future. We’re missing one at our table tonight, because we’ve already started the process of healing and recovery,” Paul Finley said.

Finley said 2017 was the first time that all three of his sons could attend: Tyler Finley, Auburn University graduate; Tanner Finley, University of Alabama in Huntsville student; and Kyle McCormick, James Clemens High School senior.

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