Mayor Stothert Reflects on Four More Years
Earlier this year Omaha voters took to the polls and re-elected Omaha’s first female mayor, Jean Stothert, for a second term. Following an election that garnered national media attention and welcomed popular political figures, Mayor Stothert sat down with the Greater Omaha Young Professionals to share her thoughts on the campaign, Omaha YPs, and what comes next.
What did you learn from the recent mayoral campaign? Did you develop any new insights into old issues?
The best way to learn what people care most about is through personal conversation. I love door-to-door campaigning because it provides that opportunity. During the campaign, I knocked on over 8,000 doors all over the city. Consistently, people care about things that affect their families: public safety, roads, parks, prompt trash collection, snow removal. Nothing really surprises me; people have expectations that they will receive good services and good customer service and that’s what we strive to do.
What are some of your first focus items for your next term?
As long as I am Mayor, I will have four main priorities: public safety, managing the city budget, job growth and economic development, as well as providing excellent customer service. Since the election, one area of intense focus has been meeting with City Council members to discuss their priorities for their districts over the next four years and to get their input on the 2018 budget and the next six-year Capital Improvement Plan. The Council will receive our budget recommendations on July 18.
Is there anything you didn’t accomplish in your first term that will be a priority during the next four years?
We accomplished a great deal in the last four years. Our goals were to make Omaha safer, make government operate more efficiently, support job training and workforce development, stabilize reckless city spending, grow our city and economy, reduce tax rates and improve transparency.
Our three-year strategic plan to increase police staffing has been exceeded. We have increased budgeted sworn strength from 804 officers in 2013 to 860 in 2017 and 880 in 2018.
In 2016, reductions in violent crime show we are making progress. We had 29 homicides in 2016, a 13-year low, and 119 shootings in 2016, a 10-year low.
The city budget is under control for the first time in many years. Every budget I have managed has ended with a surplus and we have cut the property tax rate twice – the first cuts in 14 years.
We have provided over $1 million for job training programs and workforce development.
We have increased the budget for street resurfacing and repair and we have $320 million for transportation projects in the six-year plan.
We will continue to move forward on the development projects started during my first term including the Civic Auditorium site, which has been cleared and prepared for the mixed-use development underway by Tetrad. The Planning Board and City Council have already approved the preliminary plat for this project.
Our Riverfront Committee has selected the consultant that will develop a recommended plan for the riverfront and the Gene Leahy Mall. We also have the development blueprint for Lot B ready to go.
There are many private developments still in the works including the ConAgra property and of course, Crossroads.
I also want to continue to reduce the tax burden by lowering property tax rates, the restaurant tax, or a combination of both.
How will you work to continue attracting and retaining young professionals to Omaha?
We have strong momentum and need to work diligently to keep it.
A nationwide job search firm ranked Omaha as the third best city in which to find a job last year, up from #7 on the same list in 2015.
A November survey by a nationwide housing company revealed good news for Omaha: we are #6 in the country when measuring a city’s millennial population growth. This group of entrepreneurs, employees, artists and parents up to 35 years of age represents the future of Omaha.
Specifically we are focused on downtown and urban core livability, creating mixed-use neighborhoods, affordable housing options and interconnected parks, trails and boulevards to move through all neighborhoods.
Omaha has strong employment opportunities. The role of government is to create the environment that allows the private sector to flourish through its tax structure, infrastructure and technology infrastructure.
We have and will continue to create and nurture strong public-private partnerships in development, job training, and new amenities.
We are supporting incubator and start-up efforts, setting an example for private sector companies that we have talent right here to create new products for business and government needs.
We support innovative development in key business growth sectors, especially health care, medical training and education, and sustainability.
And we are preparing for transit needs of the future, for all modes of transportation: pedestrians, bikes, cars and transit.
What advice can you give to young professionals who are considering a run for public office, big or small?
Public engagement and involvement are so important to our success as a city, state and country. My advice for anyone thinking about public office is go for it. If you don’t try you can’t win. Public service is a great responsibility, but it’s also very rewarding to be able to help people solve their problems and improve their quality of life.
Visit https://mayors-office.cityofomaha.org/ to learn more about Mayor Jean Stothert.