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The progress the city of Kokomo has made

My wife and I will celebrate a special occasion this week; we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary as Kokomo residents. We closed on our house on South Courtland on Halloween of 2005.

In the last 10 years, our adopted city has changed nearly as much as our family has. Kokomo no longer takes a backseat to anyone in terms of quality of life, innovative governance, or community pride. On the other hand, our backseat is now occupied by two rambunctious little boys. Times change.

Ten years ago in Kokomo, there was only a limited amount of activities. The concerts were non-existent. The restaurant scene was dominated by chains and franchises, and the only “trail” in Kokomo consisted of a single white line on the side of a park street. The city was stagnant enough that our new neighbors skeptically asked why we even moved here.

So much has changed in our 10 years here that it is hard to know where to start. The Performing Arts Pavilion was created, and now free concerts draw thousands of people every weekend during the summer. Trails have exploded all over the city, giving space for runners and cyclists to roam (and creating hundreds of new cyclists in the process). Local restaurants and bars have opened up, driven by skilled chefs and mixologists. New shops and small businesses line the streets, selling eclectic wares and employing hundreds.

Public art and landscaping create a sense of place and pride. We can all “Get Jacked” watching games at the new stadium. Kokomo is a city that other communities look to for ideas and innovative practices. In short: Kokomo is now 36 square miles of kinetic energy.

This transformation didn’t happen by accident. Kokomo is a better place to live because a lot of leaders made the right decisions. The single unifying theme of this transformation is the bold vision and leadership of Mayor Greg Goodnight. His passion for Kokomo is seen in every neighborhood and reflected by nearly every organization and institution in this community.

His ability to create a holistic vision for a city is exactly what you need in the mayor’s office. Goodnight had to make tough decisions, and he had to relentlessly focus on making Kokomo a great place to live and work.

Anyone who has spent time around Mayor Goodnight knows that he doesn’t take credit for the ideas that revived Kokomo. His ideas usually come from economists, urban planners, business leaders, and community groups. Mayor Goodnight takes these ideas and creates a space for others to fulfill their passions. A new YMCA, the Buckeye Street renaissance, Indiana University-Kokomo’s emergence as a destination campus, the growing local tech and marketing scene, shuttered factories reopening, and a growing population did not happen in a vacuum. These positive developments stem from Goodnight’s vision for Kokomo. That is why I support his re-election, and why I will be proudly voting for him.

Mayor Goodnight is unique in his ability to hone in on ideas, create consensus, and execute a plan to improve our community, but he cannot do it alone. He needs a strong, community minded city council to work with. So, if you like what you see around Kokomo, if you like new jobs, new businesses and new amenities, then we need your support for Mike Kennedy, Steve Whikehart, and Bob Hayes for Council At-Large. Additionally, we need to re-elect Mike Wyant, Bob Cameron, Janie Young, and Donnie Haworth to the City Council.

Kokomo is cleaner, safer, and more fun than ever before. Let’s keep up the progress by supporting Greg Goodnight and our council leaders.

My neighborhood has changed, too; the neighbors no longer react skeptically when someone moves in. Ten years ago we were the only young couple in the neighborhood. Now there are seven young families with children on our block alone. This is a beautiful sign of where our city is headed. Kokomo is growing, and we need to make sure that we support those who are committed to helping it grow.

Tharp is chairman of the Howard County Democratic Party.

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