Good morning, everyone. My name is Lance Olive, I’m the mayor of Apex, and I’ve been invited to update you on the state of the town.
This is my second address to you all, and I couldn’t be happier to be standing here today.
I’d like to extend a heartfelt “thanks” to the Apex Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to do this, and I’d like to welcome all of their board, members and staff this morning.
I’d also like to acknowledge our elected officials who represent each of us in their respective forms of government.
To the town manager, his immediate staff, and all the town employees, on behalf of the citizens of Apex, whom you all serve, I offer my deepest gratitude.
You keep us safe, powered, clean, and healthy by providing the best of living conditions for us. Thank you.
To my loving and supportive wife, my best friend, sent by God to keep my feet firmly on the ground, and yet also keep my chin held high, thank you, Cheryl.
Citizens of Apex and visitors to The Peak of Good Living, be welcome here today.
The year 2015 started out innocently enough. Our population had bloomed to 44,000. We were a safe town, we had good parks, a thriving downtown, a strong financial footing and we were minding our own business and loving life.
North Carolina employment was on the rise as most of my laid off neighbors were finding work once again. The state’s economy was waking up. Developers and investors found their “sidelined” cash and began checking out farmland in the ETJ area of Apex, where there were still unimproved green fields.
Builders emerged from hibernation, dusted off their hard hats and steel-toed boots and began sharpening their stubby pencils.
But we didn’t notice so much, because life was good, and it was a local election year.
Then the most wonderful, awful thing happened.
Money Magazine bestowed upon Apex their top honor for a municipality -- the number one position on their “Best Places to Live in America” list.
We quickly made new welcome signs for the roads leading here from Holly Springs, Cary, Durham, Raleigh and Sanford.
And because we’re thrifty, we simply made #1 stickers to cover up the #9 ranking from 2013.
We made plastic cups and foam fingers, and we held a big celebration on the town campus.
We were flying high.
But then, reality set in.
Hundreds of acres of land in the ETJ were quickly put under contract and plans were drawn.
Meanwhile, people of all ages across this country were looking for something new… something better… and Money Magazine showed them their El Dorado, and it was called Apex, North Carolina.
What’s not to love? Four seasons, plenty of jobs, convenient universities, quality of life, safety, low taxes and great family amenities.
Every apartment building filled up within six months.
Homes were put up for rent.
Homes went up for sale, and bidding wars put them under contract in 2 days.
House prices jumped 15% and many of us were caught off guard, still feeling the housing woes of 2009.
And there I was, asking everyone to allow me to be their mayor – the mayor of all this!
Was I nuts? …. Am I nuts?
Well, I won -- I asked for this.
So what’s a new mayor to do in 2016, in the afterglow of being named The Best?
How does one become the new head coach of last year’s super bowl championship team?
Is it even possible to improve on a number one ranking?
I thought about this long and hard.
Can I find objective ways to lead the Town of Apex to being even better we have been told we are?
Can I be intentional about defining and sharing a vision with the town council, the town manager and his staff?
Can I remain engaged with the citizens of Apex so they have a restored sense of faith in their leaders, a stronger sense of pride in their town, and a greater sense of purpose in being a part of their growing community?
It seems, perhaps, an impossible mission.
This mission is a mountain with five peaks.
And to fully understand them, I had to remind myself, “It’s not about me.”
First, we need to remember that the citizens are the collective boss, we, as elected officials, represent them and they expect us to govern better.
Second, while we are already a safe town, we should make sure we stay that way by working to make our town even safer.
Third, while we are already financially strong, there are opportunities to make us even stronger.
Fourth, we need to do what’s necessary to provide citizens with an even better quality of life than that which we already enjoy.
And fifth, we need to reconnect with who we are, and learn to truly love our town and love our neighbors.
Here is what we did in the year 2016.
We fostered honest conversations.
By setting the tone for understanding that we, the council members, each come to the table with differing passions, differing interests and differing backgrounds, we can relearn what it means to discuss issues openly and have honest conversations.
We can be objective in our identification of the problems, our analysis of the options and our selection of the solution.
This is what enables us to disagree in an agreeable manner and to solve real problems.
When we do this, we find that we have more in common that we may have pre-supposed, and we forget party labels and work together as a truly functional team.
We eliminated the rancor.
I opened up applications for all citizen advisory boards and panels so it’s no longer “who you know” that counts, but how much you care and how much you’re willing to commit toward working for your community.
I reorganized the committees and liaisons to eliminate the non-functional, to plug the gaps and to put diversity of thought on each committee.
Being “leaderly” sometimes means breaking the old way of doing things so you can rebuild new.
We met last February to establish the priorities of the council body, placing 45 items on the wall and using stickers and stars to cast votes.
These priorities are what remind council and staff of the things we have deem important (and next week, it’ll be time for us to do it again for 2017).
Monthly, the town manager, the town attorney and I made adjustments to the agenda, the process and the structure to make meetings crisp, participatory and, most of all, free from parliamentary neglect and abuse.
And, lastly, since this is government of the people, by the people, and for the people, I communicated with them.
I participated on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Nextdoor.
My sister even got me on Pinterest (which reminds me, there’s a buffalo chicken jalapeño dip I really need to try)!
The point is… I engaged… and I double-dog dared town hall to out-communicate me.
Because you deserve to know what’s going on!
Number two – how are we making us even safer?
We are investing in public safety.
We increased the portion of our current budget for Fire, Police and Emergency Medical Services to over 41% of our operating budget by adding over 1.8 million dollars to those major line items.
We are reducing crime even further as evidenced by the UCR Part 1 Crime statistics for Apex. These offenses, comprised of the most serious violent and property index crime categories, went down more than 3% in 2016. And Part 2 crimes are down 14%.
How many of you know that we have a safe zone for completing transactions arranged online?
If you don’t want someone to come to your house, or you don’t want to meet them in a gas station parking lot, meet them at the police station, under the safe transaction zone sign.
We are looking ahead as our population grows 5% per year by opening Public Safety Station #5 this spring while planning to construct #6 in 2021.
The intentional efforts of the town manager and the public safety chiefs are making Apex a safer place.
You are now safer than you were one year ago.
Number three - let’s make this town financially stronger.
Let’s keep debt under control by making sure it’s not a major part of our budget.
This year it’s a mere 7.2% of the operating budget – better than my personal budget with my mortgage.
When we exercise fiscal discipline, we are rewarded with great ratings.
When you receive a clean analysis in your town’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, you are rewarded with a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence.
We have received more of these consecutive awards than the Apex Nature Park has disc golf baskets… and that includes the practice holes!
Fiscal discipline is how you get a Triple A bond rating from Standard and Poor’s, and a Double A 1 from Moody’s.
Incidentally, later this year I’ll be going to Moody’s to make the pitch to get that bumped up to Triple A before we issue the Transportation General Obligation Bond to build that Apex Peakway bridge over CSX and South Salem Street.
Do we have the vision to make this better going forward?
When we budget, we plan pessimistically, and when we execute, we spend conservatively.
From this year forward, we WILL tie expenses back to priorities.
And lastly, in order to have a strong local economy, we will plan for commerce, productivity and economic growth to be a large contributor, giving citizens more local options for employment.
Taking the 2030 Land Use Map as the foundation, and making adjustments for a 2035 Apex, which is only 18 years from now, we have held 16 planning committee meetings (that’s more than one per month on average) in order to find ways to refine our future plans to reserve major intersections for commerce and employment, balancing these uses against the surging residential growth.
Number four – let’s provide citizens with an even better quality of life.
We continue to have a three-pronged approach to parks: acquiring land, up fitting with fields and facilities, and maintaining them.
The latest is the acquisition of the roughly 90 acres that we’ve dubbed Pleasant Park, due to its location near the historic Pleasant Plains community, southwest of town.
Pleasant Park Phase One will commence in 2019, pending a successful bond referendum.
Improving recreation by programming more sports and classes is another way of improving the Quality of Life of citizens.
This year we began properly planning the senior center and expect to construct it for a 2019 opening, also pending a successful bond referendum.
We will continue to enhance the culture of Apex by supporting the Halle-based arts and performances, as well as the events in downtown.
This year we improved the application process for holding events in Apex to promote fairness.
No longer do you need to know the right person, or ask for approval whenever the council happens to be in a good mood.
Everyone follows the same process for the annual calendar of events, and they are reviewed for approval once at the beginning of the year.
By the way, the council just approved 17 events for 2017, including three races, five that are related to holidays and five with “Fest” in their name.
We continue to improve the walkability by holding high standards for pedestrian connectivity during new development, and spending on filling gaps in the sidewalk where only short segments have been installed.
Additionally, this spring we are constructing a safe route to the Apex Friendship School Campus along Evans Road.
And we’ve guaranteed that citizens will continue to see treetops as they walk through their town, which is now certified by Tree City USA.
Last, and, perhaps best of all, we are improving the road infrastructure by targeting a long list of projects to make everyone’s travels just a bit more smooth.
Turn signals were installed on the Peakway and Old Raleigh Road.
One quarter million dollars were spent adding turning lanes at the Kelly Road and Olive Chapel Road intersection.
And we have a long list of transportation improvements that will keep us busy for several years to come, as we can budget for them.
Number five – I want us all to love our town and our neighbors more.
Non-profit organizations aid our community.
A dozen churches, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, VFW, CAPS, CAPA, Western Wake Crisis Ministry, and many others benefit our community by helping others in need.
When you shop local, you support the local economy.
Our downtown is thriving, but it wasn’t always.
Now that it is, let’s find those businesses that improve our quality of life and spend our hard-earned dollars with them.
The same goes for all these entrepreneurs who are brave enough to put a large part of their life on hold, and most of their savings, to hang a shingle and offer services and products that are unique and valuable.
Without your support of them, our town could once again fall into the commercial doldrums.
2016 was a very plain year for our three water tanks, standing tall with nothing to say for themselves.
Meanwhile the council labored to find just the right logo for this new era of Apex.
Have you seen those tanks lately?
They make me so proud of my town.
Next, and I say this with all sincerity as someone who remembers when Apex had only 3,000 residents, half my first-grade classmates were African-American (I didn’t really know or care), and I hadn’t yet met anyone with any kind of accent, northern or otherwise foreign... Apex today has 48,400 residents and has become a melting pot of people from many places.
So, respectfully… melt. MELT!
Or maybe a better analogy is gumbo because it is a mixture, where the elements are still recognizable, yet part of a bigger whole.
But gumbo isn’t gumbo if you don’t stir it.
So why do you spend so much time indoors, alone?
How is it we live so close together and yet are so far apart?
Get out of your house, and engage with your community.
Melt. Become gumbo.
And be proud of who we are, collectively.
After all, are we not Peak Proud?
We are Apex.
We are The Peak of Good Living.
So, the mission, it seems, is indeed possible.
Govern better, make us even safer, make us even stronger, provide citizens with even better quality of life, and love our town and our neighbors.
And, finally, the question I posed at the beginning… what’s a new mayor to do with a town that is the best place to live in America?
I plan to be Objective
I plan to be Leaderly
I plan to be Intentional
I plan to be Visionary
I plan to be Engaged
Really, I just want to be myself… so that we can be us.
--== end ==--