DAPHNE – After the first 100 days of their new terms that included two hurricanes and the continuing effects of COVID-19, the Eastern Shore’s three mayors said they are looking forward to improvements in the new year.
Daphne Mayor Robin LeJeune, Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan and Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan spoke with members of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The meeting was part of the Eggs and Issues discussion series conducted by the chamber.
Sullivan and LeJeune took office Nov. 2 after being elected in 2020. McMillan began his third term after being re-elected.
All three mayors said they have been working together since the terms began.
“I think the relationship we have is great,” Sullivan said. “I think we talk probably at least once a week. We have a lot of projects that we work on together. Right now, it’s the legislative season, so we’re talking about legislation and what’s going on in Montgomery that’s going to impact all three of our cities. I think that as we continue to work together, we’re going to find that we’re a lot more alike than not and anything that impacts one of us, impacts the others so it’s important for us to continue that relationship and to continue to work together just to make our communities the best they can be.”
LeJeune also said relations between the three cities has been good.
“I’ve reached out to Mayor McMillan and Mayor Sullivan and been able to work with them on different things,” LeJeune said. “That right there in itself has just been a huge help to me knowing that I can reach out to them and see what’s going on in the surrounding area and work together.”
LeJeune said Daphne is doing well after 2020, but the city is still recovering from the effects of the coronavirus.
“I’m really looking forward to this coming year of getting past this pandemic and really being able to do all the things that we want to do here in Daphne,” LeJeune said. “We’re really pushing our recreation still. We’ve done a lot of investment over the years in recreation, but we’re not done.”
Recreation plans include a splash pad, all-inclusive playground and improvements at the Tennis Center. The city is also working to improve bayfront access.
“We’ve got a plan for a bayfront streetscape that we’re working on there,” LeJeune said, Bayfront Drive down to the bay, possible pier extensions, amphitheater.”
In Fairhope, Sullivan said one of her first priorities has been improving communications within the city and with residents.
“I’ve wanted to increase communication in our city with not only our employees, but with our citizens mainly and we’ve been able to do that by implementing an app where you get push notifications,” Sullivan said. “We’ve also increased our newsletter circulation.”
She said Fairhope just passed a budget that includes major utility improvements.
“This year we have $15 million in the budget for those utility upgrades, but we are continuing to do upgrades to our transmission system and to our substations with electric,” she said. “We’re also doing some gas projects in different areas of Fairhope and also some drainage projects as well as looking at water and wastewater.”
Spanish Fort has also passed a budget and plans recreational improvements, McMillan said.
The new budget includes raises and benefits for employees, he said.
“Just like we have in every year in our history of our city, we have given our employees raises of 2 ½ percent and also COVID raises and we changed our packages for our employees with their benefits,” McMillan said.
The city has also budgeted $1 million for a girls’ field house at Spanish Fort High School.
One long-awaited improvement in Spanish Fort will be the completion of work to widen US 31 to four lanes in the city, McMillan said. He said the work to widen the highway to Alabama 181 is scheduled to be completed by April.
He said the city is also moving forward with plans to add sidewalks and streetlights downtown.
“We have a unique opportunity to build a downtown area. We’ve never had a downtown as opposed to neighboring cities,” McMillan said. “We have an opportunity to do something special, so we hope we don’t drop the ball. And we do it the right way so we’re very proud of that.”