Hastings is working alongside council members to address issues including parks and green space, aging infrastructure, commercial development and drainage. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
What have you accomplished so far?
My first 30 days have been spent trying to catch up on all the projects that were already slated and going on in the city as well as getting to know the employees outside of [emergency medical services], fire and police better. I had minimal contact with a lot of the people here. I knew who they were, we passed in the halls, we were cordial, but I didn’t know their specific job function or what they were about. I’ve spent the first 30 days just learning. I’m like a lab puppy. I get up eager to go to work—see who is holding my leash, what trick they are going to teach me for the day. It’s been good.
What are your priorities moving forward?
We had a strategic planning meeting [June 18]—the council, city administrator and I. It went well. I view myself as not the one who sets our agenda, but the one who is responsible for helping the council obtain what they need based on the needs of the people. It was surprising when we all sat down and started listing our priorities. Most of them were the same. There was a lot of talk about parks and green space. Of course, flooding and drainage still are No. 1. Aging infrastructure, we all felt we needed to take a harder look at. Worthwhile commercial development was a big issue. We don’t want just anything that wants to come in, rather things that can benefit the city and citizens.
What is your plan for commercial development?
Our idea is to focus on commercial development along I-10 and the Hwy. 90 corridor, west of town, and not to turn Avenue D or any of our residential streets into commercial areas. We would like to focus on filling that space with companies—people who are worthwhile and who are going to be there a long time. We don’t want it to look like an industrial district 10 years from now, with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t fit in. We have to be selective with what we put out there. There are some really nice buildings already that don’t just look like warehouses. That’s our main focus as far as commercial development.
What are your concerns with aging infrastructure?
We have streets that need to be milled down and then relayed again. We’ve got areas where we still have to clean out the ditches. Those are all smaller projects when it comes to flood mitigation. These are the things that at this point the council thinks are one of the top priorities.
What ideas do you have for a drainage maintenance program?
As far as cleaning out the storm drains and the lines, we don’t need to wait until there is an issue with it to address it. That needs to be on a regularly scheduled maintenance, at least twice per year. The older infrastructure also needs to be checked, and we need to start replacing and reburnishing those as needed.
Do you have plans to add more sidewalks and green space?
Parks and green space were the No. 2 issue that all the council felt needed to be addressed. It was pretty much a consensus that we need a park director who is more familiar with grants. There’s a lot available for parks. Many of the studies done over the last two, three years show that parks not only positively affect children and young families, but the elderly, too. Kids need to get out and play in the dirt instead of being inside, but to get them out, we have to give them something to do. You can’t just send them outside to play anymore. It has to be more organized.