City leadership leads to national recognition, awards

Plano focuses on safety, health, recreation and development



Plano received more than 30 accolades and awards in 2014, ranking it in the top 10 in the nation for safety, health, economic development, residential and recreational life.



Plano also asserted itself as one of the most viable locations for corporate headquarters by successfully recruiting Toyota Motor North America Inc. and FedEx Office & Print Services last year.



Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere attributes the city's success to a combination of factors, such as the city leadership and planning as well as the working relationship with the community.



"We focused on economic development—attracting and retaining companies, redevelopment and revitalization of our neighborhoods, our quality of services—making sure our employees had all of the resources they needed in order to be able to serve our citizens in the best possible manner," LaRosiliere said.



Best-run city



Plano was ranked No. 3 in the nation for best-run city by 24/7 Wall Street, an online financial newsletter, based on factors such as the economy, job market, crime level and welfare of the population. LaRosiliere said the council put a plan into action at the beginning of 2014 that focuses on the needs of citizens and investing in the city as it grows.



"The council has a clear vision of who we want to be and what we want for the city," he said. "And that's a city that is vibrant, safe, very mobile with endless cultural and educational opportunities for our citizens."



With more than 150,000 people working within the city limits during the day and more to come with nine companies committing to creating almost 6,000 jobs, LaRosiliere said the council will have to focus on making sure the city adjusts adequately.



"Our main goal is embracing our future," he said. "We are experiencing a renaissance with an infusion of new employees and families, and we have to do the things we need to in order to keep them or they will go somewhere else."



LaRosiliere said in 2015 the council is making investments to make sure the city remains well run. The council allocated $57 million in its budget to be used toward improvements on roads, medians, intersections and light poles.



It is also continuing with the Great Update Rebate program, which started last year as a way to assist homeowners with the financial burden of caring for older homes. In the six months since its implementation, 66 projects have been approved with a total investment of $1.6 million in Plano's neighborhoods.



"Going forward, we want to continue providing amenities citizens are asking for," he said. "Demographically we are changing—we have a segment that is aging. We also have 40 percent of our population under the age of 34, so they are going to require completely different amenities, housing, entertainment and healthcare–[which will create] a challenge that we will have to embrace."



Safest city



Of all of the accolades and awards the city received in 2014, LaRosiliere said he is most proud of Plano ranking No. 1 safest city with a population of over 250,000 for four years straight by Movoto Real Estate.



David Tilley, Plano Police Department public information officer, will tell anyone that Plano is safe because of the community, and the police officers who not only work in Plano, but live here as well.



"One of the most important things is the community partnership," Tilley said. "We have a good, strong relationship with the community. They are our eyes and ears, and we depend on them to let us know when something doesn't look right. Our working relationship is superior."



Tilley also said residents are getting more engaged by participating in the Citizens Police Academy, being active in a neighborhood crime watch, having the PPD come out and do free home security assessments and through a website called www.nextdoor.com.



"The website allows a resident in any subdivision to sign up and communicate with other residents in the neighborhood," he said. "They can share things like suggestions for baby sitters, lost pets or something as serious as there is a suspicious car sitting down the street. I can post on there and let the neighborhood know if police are having a problem in the city or in their neighborhood. I even post safety tips."



Tilley said so far 17,000 people in more than 200 neighborhoods have signed up.



'One of the healthiest cities in America'



TIME Magazine named Plano one of the 10 healthiest cities in America when considering fitness, nutrition and aging well.



Mary Jo Dean, director of community relations for Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano said it is because of informed citizens and numerous health establishments that Plano is a leading city in health care.



"We have a very educated community that knows the importance of eating right, exercising, getting annual checkups and doing those things to make sure they live a healthy life," she said. "We are also very fortunate that we have four major hospitals in the community that provide citizens with high-quality care."



Dean also added Plano is a healthy city because it has numerous recreation centers and a great parks system.



Amy Fortenberry, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said she believes her department plays a vital role in helping locals get active, which helps residents stay healthy.



"We provide 24-hour access for citizens to get exercise through our trails," she said. "It was the No. 1 thing requested by our residents. We have more than 70 miles of recreation trail throughout the city. Essentially, there should be one park in every square mile of the city."



Fortenberry added residents can also burn calories and get fit at the city's four recreation centers and eight pools for a low cost.



The department also was recognized as one of the four finalists for the National Recreation and Park Association's National Gold Medal Award honoring the top four parks and recreation agencies in the nation.



Fortenberry said the city's investment in the department has allowed it to rise to the top and will help it remain there.



"A lot of places stepped back from focusing on their parks during the recession," she said. "We were so glad that we didn't have to, and we have improved our efficiency and kept up with upgrades and maintenance over the years. We also make sure that city management always has professional development opportunities, which allows them to gain new techniques and ideas. Often, we are not getting ideas, but providing innovating ideas for other people."

By Sherelle Black
Sherelle joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2014 as a reporter for the Grapevine/Colleyville/Southlake edition. She was promoted in 2015 to editor of the GCS edition. In August 2017, Sherelle became the editor of the Lewisville/Flower Mound/Highland Village edition. Sherelle covers transportation, economic development, education and features.