Sunbury’s change in status from a village to a city was highlighted during Monday’s Delaware County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Mayor Joe St. John, accompanied by staff and City Council, paid a visit to the Commissioners Hearing Room and spoke about future collaboration with the county.
“Sunbury was recently proclaimed to be a city, and with that comes additional responsibility and accountability,” St. John said. “One of the biggest things we’re challenged with is how we can maintain our small-town charm while we’re growing. Our goal is prosperity, but how we get there is more of a practical matter. Number one, we put people first. Number two, we do a detailed review of code, contracts, processes, master plans. And number three, we deliver on promises.”
St. John said Sunbury is investing in relationships with other political subdivisions and wants to expand its relationship with the commissioners.
“We will join you in supporting the opening of the Sunbury Parkway,” St. John said of the promises portion of Sunbury’s vision. “We will complete the Ohio-to-Erie Trail within the boundaries of Sunbury. We will connect Sunbury to Alum Creek by multi-use trail in five years. We’ll continue to invest in parks and recreation, because that’s what our residents want. Lastly, we’re also looking for ways to leverage the scale of the county for the betterment of Sunbury. We look forward to 2022 … and partnering more closely together. We do need to grow responsibly, that’s one of the main things we hear from our residents.”
Councilman Dave Martin said he moved to Sunbury in 1984, when the western edge of the village was state Route 3. Despite the growth and being a bedroom community, Martin is proud of how residents still take the time to be involved in Sunbury and its events on the square.
“I just love living in a community like that,” Martin said.
“Being a long-time resident of the east side, Sunbury has always had the charm,” said Commissioner Barb Lewis, herself a Big Walnut alumna. “I congratulate you all for forward-looking projects, and we’ll be working on some joint projects with you.”
Commissioner Jeff Benton praised Sunbury for already having a charter in place, a document that guides how the city will be governed. He also pointed out county resources that are available for the fledgling city. Benton said he enjoyed participating in Sunbury’s 4th of July parade, which had its largest attendance in 2021. Finally, he said he may slip up and still call Sunbury a village for a time.
“It has such a small-town, celebratory feel to it,” Benton said of the city. “The future is bright — you have a lot of good growth. It can be a challenge at times, but it’s better than shrinking, which so many cities in the state and region do.”
Commissioner Gary Merrell compared Sunbury’s growth to that of Delaware County. “We’re kind of all in this together,” he said. “We look forward to a great partnership.”
The status change to a city was made official by the 2020 U.S. Census and recognized by the State of Ohio this past fall. However, St. John said Sunbury had exceeded the 5,000-person population threshold as early as 2011, before he and his family had moved there. He said the city’s population is now around 7,000.
“The people are what make Sunbury great,” St. John said.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.