SUNBURY — Joe St. John’s recent “state of” address was his first as a mayor, and it was also the first for Sunbury as a city.
“We’ve matured from a village to a city, adding additional responsibilities and ownership for the way we govern,” St. John said during the council meeting on Jan. 19. “2021 revolved around adaptation, pivoting, and demonstrating our resilience. It was a year of learning and transition.”
Sunbury was able to transition to officially becoming a city despite “an unprecedented set of challenges” brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak in 2021, St. John said.
“Like you, Sunbury City Council was forced to change the way we do business, the way we operate, and the way we live our daily lives,” he said. “Together, we worked with our staff, regional and state officials in maintaining the continuity of government and ensuring that we continue to provide quality city services; and creating a framework for recovery from this pandemic.”
St. John thanked local frontline and essential workers “from grocery store employees to medical personnel. … We were not however simply focused on a reactive approach to the pandemic nor how we best recover. We comprehensively, and with a forward-thinking approach, addressed numerous issues in 2021 that will drive long-term value for Sunbury residents and businesses. We’re in the process of methodically reorganizing and realigning staff to meet the service demands of the future.”
For example, St. John said the city has completed a comprehensive zoning code review.
“I’m excited to say that Sunbury will require multi-use trails for all zoning districts,” he said. “Trails and connectivity are priority for us as we encourage multi-modal transportation. Our investment and efforts reduce the dependency on vehicle traffic, promote active lifestyles, and most importantly connect neighborhoods and communities. We’ve continued to increase our investment in parks and trails. We completed the walking paths around the (city’s) reservoirs and the second phase of the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial (OFHM) Path.”
The Town Hall, a distinctive feature for the community, has received technological upgrades so that residents are able to livestream meetings they are not able to attend. St. John said the city is also thrilled to support the Big Walnut Local School District with the addition of a school resource officer from the Sunbury Police Department.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, St. John said Sunbury had its highest-ever turnout for events such as the Independence Day Parade and Sunbury Sizzle and Sounds, as well as hosting an OFHM event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America. He said that was because Sunbury’s residents work, give back and thrive together.
“We are a community of civic-minded individuals,” he said. “We created a volunteer portal called volunteer opportunities (on our website) that connects volunteers with needed projects and initiatives, such as ‘Help a Senior,’ ‘Adopt a Park,’ and ‘Bicycle Ambassadors.’”
For more information on volunteering, visit www.sunburyohio.org.
“I encourage you to get involved in your community,” St. John continued. “There are numerous opportunities to drive positive change through boards, commissions, workgroups, neighborhood groups, church groups, sports teams, and most importantly right inside your own neighborhood — by helping out a neighbor who could use your help.”
He concluded the address by saying, “We’re not such a small town anymore, but our values remain unchanged. People first, always. We look out for one another. We are a community of mindful individuals with an eye towards the future. It’s who we are. It’s the Sunbury way.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak