In a surprise announcement at Fenton's Board of Aldermen meeting Thursday night, Dennis Hancock announced he would not seek a 7th term as the city's mayor. The announcement came during the normally routine part of the aldermanic agenda under "mayor's comments." It was surprise to everyone in the room. Hancock said his wife was the only one who knew of his intention to not seek re-election next April. Hancock has served as Fenton's mayor since April 2001, making him the second longest serving mayor since the 1950s, an observation he made during his remarks.
During Hancock's tenure, the has seen some ups and downs. On the up side, the construction of the massive Gravois Bluffs shopping development has brought thousands of shoppers to the stores located there. On a down note, the twin Chrysler plants, source as much of the city's tax revenue, were shut down. Some of that revenue loss was subsequently offset by the construction of SSM , just outside the city limits, and the corresponding development of other businesses surrounding St. Clare, many of which are within the city's boundaries.
The mayor's comments Thursday night were made following the swearing-in of two new alderman -- Jerry Sorge and Gary Fischer -- and two newly re-elected aldermen -- Harold Bade and Daniel C. Borgard.
Here is the complete text of Hancock's remarks to the Board of Aldermen:
Good evening. First, let me congratulate and welcome our newest members, Alderman Fischer and Alderman Sorge. Thank you for accepting this responsibility, and I look forward to working with you. The only advice I will offer you is this: Keep your eyes, your ears, and most importantly, your mind open. While you may be new to this, your vote counts exactly the same as everyone else's. Don't let anyone make you think otherwise.
For those of you who haven't been here before, in the back of the room there are portraits of all the men who have served as mayor since the mid-1950s. While some have served only one term, there are others who served a very long time. I have been blessed to be one of those. In fact, at the end of my current term, I will have served as many consecutive years as any of my predecessors, with the exception of our first mayor, Garrett Hitzert.
It's funny, but when I look at the last portrait in that row, the face I see in that picture no longer matches the face I see when I look in the mirror. The guy in the mirror has a lot more wrinkles, a lot less hair, and the hair he has is a lot grayer than the guy in the portrait. The euphemism that is used today to describe such an individual is "experienced."
While I think there is something to be said for experience, I'm also keenly aware that change is always needed from time to time. Change is where fresh ideas and fresh solutions come from. Sometimes change occurs because of us, and sometimes change occurs in spite of us.
I think the time has come for change here in Fenton. So, I am announcing tonight that I will not be seeking another term as mayor next April.
This is not a decision I made on the spur-of-the-moment. And I promise that I will share my reasons for doing this at the appropriate time. But I chose to announce this now so that those who may have an interest in following me will have ample opportunity to gather the information they will need to successfully do so.
And so, in no particular order, here's what I hope my final year in office looks like:
- I hope that the completion of the Gravois Road bridge across the Meramec will see a celebration that outshines the one that was held in 1924 when the old bridge was dedicated. I know there has been a lot of interest from various groups that want to be part of that event, but we need to start working in earnest, pulling together a budget, and finding the funding to have that celebration. We have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have this cornerstone event and celebrate our 175th birthday in the same year. Let's not waste it.
- I hope the fledgling Olde Towne Business Association continues to grow and flourish. They are off to a great start and I hope the driving forced behind this group will keep focused on their mission, and not be discouraged by the inevitable naysayers.
- I hope the Board of Aldermen will focus on the infrastructure projects this city needs in order to continue to prosper. Gravois Road, the River Road, Horan, and other streets in our business park all need serious attention. We need to find the funding to get started on these projects that we all agree need to be done.
- I hope that I get to be there when an announcement is made about the future of the Chrysler site.
- I hope that this city resumes its place in the lead of the effort to reform the distribution of sales taxes in St. Louis County. We have far too much at risk to leave this issue solely in the hands of someone else.
- Finally, I hope that the pettiness ans bickering that seems to have dominated our discussions far too often will be replaced with respect, courtesy and a renewed sense of purpose to address the serious issues our city faces.
We are really blessed her in Fenton. Despite the loss of millions of dollars every year to the ridiculous sales tax distribution plan, our city is in much better financial shape than many of our neighbors. Despite the loss of Chrysler and the worst recession since the 1930s, we continue to add jobs to our local economy and to have one of the highest business occupancy rates in the region. And despite the gloom and doom that some have predicted, we are now in a position that in a few short years will see us once again a city that is completely debt-free.
As I've gotten older, I try very hard to learn from the past, live in the present and look to the future. And our future as a city is as bright as we want it to be. There are always going to be challenges along the way and there will always be those who will throw obstacles in our path. But I've learned that by working together, there are no challenges or obstacles we can't overcome.
So, to the Board of Aldermen, the city staff, and most importantly, to the residents of this city, I look forward to working on those challenges with you over the next year.