Denton Mayor Chris Watts gave his final State of the City Address Thursday night in which he discussed improvements in transportation and infrastructure, combating homelessness and the efforts of first responders in 2019, as well as the conclusion of his time as mayor.
Elected in 2014, Watts is currently serving his third term as mayor.
“[Being mayor] has been one of the most personally and professionally growing experiences that I have ever experienced in my tenure,” Watts said. “I’m so thankful that the community is as engaged in city politics as they are.”
Watts spoke of the improvements in the city’s transportation and infrastructure last year, mentioning the frustration he said he knows many citizens have felt about the city’s streets and highways.
“In 2019, we improved more than 39 lane miles of streets,” Watts said. “We replaced and constructed more than 19,000 linear feet of sidewalks. By the end of 2020, 100 percent of the 2012 GO Bond Program will be completed. By the end of 2020, 95 percent of the 2014 bond program is projected to be completed.”
After going on a police ride-along at 3 a.m. and participating in a firefighting simulation at the firefighter training facility built last year, Watts noted the importance of funding for first responders.
Watts said in 2019, $61.9 million in funding was approved for the police headquarters renovation and there was a $9 million increase in the budget for public safety radio and dispatch software system.
“When you’re riding in a police vehicle, you understand that you want that to be the most up to date [technology] that you can have to support those officers,” Watts said. “You don’t know what people go through when you sit at a desk or in council when you talk about budgets. This isn’t just a budget. This is something that allows the people who commit their lives to help to keep our lives safe.”
Watts also went over the city’s efforts to combat homelessness. The city is seeking to make homelessness a rare occurrence that is quickly resolved for the homeless individual and prevented from happening again.
“We added $480,000 to our homelessness initiative to allow Monsignor King Outreach Center to go from three nights a week and inclement weather to open the shelter to seven nights a week,” Watts said. “And I think it’s an estimate of about 450 to 550 people that we’ve been able to get housed. We didn’t have any housing vouchers for veterans who are homeless to provide a place for them to live. Now we’ve got 25.”
Denton resident Rick Hunsicker said as a new resident and first-time attendee at the State of the City Address, he learned a lot about the city and was impressed by Watts’s presentation.
“I have not been to a city function like this and I don’t even know if the other cities I lived in have them,” Hunsicker said. “This was very helpful for someone who has just been in Denton for a year to learn what’s going on.”
Denton resident Cathy Snyder said that after Watts’s address, she thinks the city is doing well, but still has some areas that need work.
“It sounds really good to say we’re studying affordable housing and we’re studying this and that,” Snyder said. “But we’ve got to make real progress, especially if they’re going to say we’re a boomtown and we’re going to explode with growth. It’s great, but it’s still something to be concerned about.”
Despite her reservations about some aspects of the city, Snyder said she liked having Watts as a mayor.
“Chris Watts is a great guy and he’s been a good mayor,” Synder said. “Now we’ve got to find another good mayor.”
Watts ended his last address by highlighting what he has learned about Denton’s citizens during his time as mayor.
“This community is a loving community and when people need help, they step up,” Watts said. “We can have all different kinds of political ideologies, we can dispute and we can have disagreements over a lot of things. But when I’ve seen people in need and organizations and people needed to step up, they did. To be able to see that more clearly has been the greatest gift to me in this service to the community.”
Featured Image: Mayor Chris Watts listens to a question during the segment of his State of the City Address dedicated to Denton residents being able to ask questions on Jan. 23, 2020. Image by Grace Davis