Mayor Jordan Marlowe and Newberry commissioners focused on past success and future plans at the 2023 State of the City address Thursday evening, touting the growth of commercial businesses, residential housing and the Newberry Environmental Park.
"Honestly, I am done looking at the past," Marlowe said. "We are simply not going that way. The past is only important in the measure that we are willing and able to build a better future because the future is where we are going; what we are building."
Marlowe highlighted that within the past five years the commission focused on committing to increasing services and encouraging job growth within Newberry so that residents and their children don't have to leave to find those services elsewhere.
Over that time, Marlowe said Newberry has built 631 houses and issued 124 new business licenses, which equates to one new business for every five new homes.
"The future is not just before us, but it is being guided by us," he said. "Tomorrow isn't happening to us. It is happening because of us. The city's vision is coming to life."
Marlowe also spoke on the progress of renovating and revitalizing the Newberry Fire Department (NFD).
"We wanted all the latest technology and equipment the fire department needs to respond to and save the lives of our residents," he said.
Newberry partnered with the Alachua County Fire Department (ACFD) five years ago, which allowed Newberry firefighters to obtain an ambulance in the community.
He said two months ago, right before Christmas, the fire department responded to an emergency call about a woman stuck in her vehicle. The firefighter quickly extracted her from the vehicle, got her into the ambulance, and saved her life, Marlowe said. That ambulance is now stationed in the newly renovated NFD.
"We help everyone," he said. "Elected officials are not just voted in to work for the people who voted for them. That woman is alive today because of the partnership we forged five years ago."
Marlowe highlighted the agricultural growth in Newberry.
The city launched an AgTech Research Park. Because of it, Marlowe said the city has saved Canterbury for the 4-H and FFA youth, brought the UF/IFAS extension to the community, and recommitted to ensuring a green belt of undeveloped agricultural land in Newberry.
Marlowe also cited Newberry’s partnership with the county to explore building a meat-packing facility, a fire training facility, and a plan to fix County Road 337. He announced that Newberry is partnering with the School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) to resurface, widen and connect Southwest 15th Avenue to County Road 337 this coming year.
"It takes a long time to build a community that has a reputation as a community that wants to work together inside and out," he said. "It takes determined, sustained commitment to being open and willing to think outside the box."
Over the last 18 months, Marlowe said the commission has tackled the adolescent suicide and opioid addiction crisis in the city by chartering the Newberry Opioid Task Force that provides training for children to be radKIDS, which teaches kids to recognize danger and responsibly deal with the matter.
"We will save our children from a life of debilitating addiction," he said.
He added that Newberry, Archer and High Springs partnered to save residents money by building a regional wastewater facility at Newberry Environmental Park that will come in the next few years.