On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Huntington Mayor Richard Strick addressed several members of the community, sharing his State of the City address at the Huntington Arts & Entrepreneurial Center.
Amongst the crowd were community leaders such as Huntington Fire Chief Tony Johnson, Huntington City Police Chief Chad Hacker and State Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington).
To start his speech, Strick acknowledged the loss that Huntington has experienced over the last year. He continued on to note that, thanks to those who held leadership roles in 2020, Huntington experienced “minimal disruptions” as compared to some of the surrounding communities.
“Director of Operations Annette Carroll was critical to our efforts of keeping our workforce healthy and encouraged this past year. Our city employees did a remarkable job adapting to and overcoming in 2020,” Strick said.
Strick also highlighted the contributions of several other city departments, starting with the Huntington Fire Department.
“Chief Tony Johnson . . . and our firefighters made equipment and facility improvements the priority for 2020. Our Chief successfully submitted a $1.9 million grant request to upgrade and replace fire rescue radios throughout Huntington County. He was also successful in attaining council approval for ordering a new fire engine in 2021.”
Other notes included the spending of CARES Act money to address issues within the Etna Avenue fire station and the fundraising efforts to install a new baby box that would allow for new mothers to safely give up their babies if the need arose.
Strick then turned his attention to the Huntington Police Department, noting the work that Hacker and the department put in during the summer of 2020 to ensure that residents in Huntington could exercise their freedom of speech.
“2020 was a year where the spotlight was turned on systemic racism in the United States,” Strick said. “Residents of Huntington joined millions of Americans in protesting the injustice in law enforcement.”
Strick commended the efforts of Hacker, along with Sheriff Chris Newton and prosecutor Amy Richison for their work to allow residents to “coordinate a thoughtful response that helped residents exercise civil rights and liberties, while avoiding the property destruction and violent crackdowns that many other cities endured last year.”
Other departments that were noted included the Department of Public Works and Engineering Services, the team of Community Development and Redevelopment, small business owners and entrepreneurs, City Services, City Utilities and the Huntington Parks and Recreation Department
Strick also commended Kevin Krauskopf, the city’s communication coordinator, for his adaptability.
“Over the course of the year, he prioritized engaging traditional and digital media to keep residents informed on happenings in the city. He also assisted the county health department with getting information related to COVID-19 and our vaccination efforts out into the community.”
Strick reminded those present that “communication is foundational to trust.”
Moving on to the future of the city, Strick noted the steps that the city is taking to improve infrastructure, including wastewater projects, conditions and traffic patterns of roads and the existing industrial space and residential home development.
After completing his address, Strick gave those present an opportunity to ask questions.
Steve Kimmel, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Huntington County, brought up investments that could aid the city and community members and asked about solutions to issues that community members may face.
“I think that the nature of some of the challenges we’re facing - like for instance, I just brought up the housing shortage - in addition to single family home development, I think we need to look at opportunities for investment for private developers towards denser housing as well. There are folks in our community who are, quite frankly, not interested in maintaining a lawn or are, maybe, not even interested in owning their own property.”
Strick also noted the topic of the addiction crisis, and what can be done to aid those who find themselves in that situation.
“That continues to be one of our major needs in our community. We know that stress heightens that, and the last year was more stressful than any of us have lived through,” Strick said. “So, we recognize the collaboration that needs to happen across sectors.”
Sen. Zay also addressed Strick, asking about how the faith community had helped the city through the past year.
“One of the biggest assets that I’ve seen from my relationships with the faith community has been getting them to work with each other to give suggestions and ideas and collaborate,” Strick said. “We knew, from a city standpoint, that in trying to address public health we didn’t want to come across in a way that could be viewed as infringing on religious liberties.”
Strick also said that the faith communities have aided the city with their volunteer efforts.
“Our faith communities have stepped up extremely well with volunteerism, donations to our food pantries, making sure that residents within their congregations were taken care of.”
Strick plans to give the State of the City address to other entities at the beginning of March.