MIDLOTHIAN — Mayor Boyce Whatley was the featured speaker at the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday at the Midlothian Conference Center. His State of the City address focused on the city’s progress over the past five years, overcoming the challenges of a tough economy and the outlook for the future.

“It’s been a bear the past four years. The recession is one like I’ve never seen before and hope not to see again,” Whatley said. “We are doing well even in this economy. Hope is on the horizon.”

Midlothian’s population increased 35 percent from 2005 and 2010; however, revenues have increased only 11 percent, Whatley said, stressing the need for preparedness in managing finances.

“The city has to be strategic in cutting costs,” he said, citing successful efforts by the city council and city staff in balancing the budget, jumpstarting new development and diversifying the tax base. “We have balanced the budget with no tax or fee increases and no cuts in services and succeeded in preserving the general fund balance.”

He recognized the efforts and devotion of city employees, saying that employees have not received a raise in three years and are working harder and doing multiple jobs.

“We have great employees that recognize the sacrifices that have to be made so this city can continue to operate in the black,” he said.

Efforts to spur new development include the one-year impact fee abatement program for new single-family homes, which resulted in an increase of housing starts – 159 new homes in 2010 compared to 108 in 2009. In January, the city council approved extending the incentive by six months at a 50-percent discount rate and additionally waived 100 percent of roadway impact fees for commercial development.

Whatley said efforts to maintain and enhance quality of life include expansion of the parks program and the Navarro College expansion as well as public safety and infrastructure improvements.

In addressing the challenges ahead he focused on expanding the presence of higher education, the completion of water treatment Plant No. 2, recruiting community and retail development and transportation improvements.

“Citizen involvement is one of the most important elements in how we manage business in Midlothian,” Whatley said, expressing appreciation to the residents who contribute their efforts serving on the city’s 12 boards and commissions.

He said the city is working to provide timely information by reaching out to the public through technology utilizing the city’s webpage, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail notifications.

“Transparency is huge and we just won a state comptroller’s Gold Award for governmental transparency,” he said, saying that a variety of city documents are available for public access on the city’s website. “There are no other cities I know of in Ellis County that have received this award yet.”

Whatley, whose mayoral term expires this year, announced that he will run for re-election in May. He is a 28-year resident of Midlothian and has served two terms as a city council member and is now in his sixth year as mayor.

“I put in my application to see if voters will have me for three more years,” Whatley said. “Midlothian is a great community and I am humbled to serve this community. I feel it is a calling of mine and I hope to continue to do so.”

Contact Rebecca at rebecca.hertz@wninews.com or call 469-517-1451.