RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The state of the city is "getting stronger" according to Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones' annual address. There was a somewhat congratulatory and optimistic atmosphere inside Thomas Jefferson High School Tuesday night as Mayor Jones spoke to a couple hundred people.
As Richmonders so often do, Jones focused on the future while keeping an eye on the past.
Tuesday night, an auditorium stage became a pulpit. Mayor Jones reached into his preacher roots to give his view of the state of the city.
"When we spread our wings and soar to the heights of success and possibility there is nothing that will ever hold us back," he exclaimed.
Jones cited accomplishments of the past year including strengthening Richmond's financial position and bond rating, investing in capital projects, creating jobs and lowering the crime rate.
Jones admits it hasn't always been easy. At times his relationship with city council was strained.
"Yes, there have been some mistakes along the way," he maintained.
Thomas Jefferson High acted as a perfect back drop for suggesting a restructuring of the city's public education system.
"We all have a stake in what happens to our children and youth," Jones said. "And as mayor I have to call for an educational system that prepares our young people to win."
Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon told NBC12 that can happen with the city's cooperation.
"It can only mean great things for our children," she explained. "And I recognize that he's been a great partner and this speech indicates that we're ready to step it up."
Jones said his single biggest issue is poverty and he's ready to step up neighborhood and economic revitalization. Work on Shockoe Bottom's Main Street Station should begin soon. A plan to develop the riverfront will also be released.
"Getting this right means we can boost revenue, attract jobs and residents downtown, create a national attraction and provide social benefits," he said.
Jones also announced "RVA Green" as the first sustainability plan for the city. A draft proposal should be unveiled next month.
It is interesting to note, this is an election year but there was no mention of another campaign for Jones in the address.