At his final State of the City address, Leon Jukowski said it’s been a pleasure serving as Pontiac’s mayor.
“It’s been a tremendous pleasure to work with people and see progress in a city that, for too long, I felt everyone had given up on,” Jukowski said during his speech, delivered at Goldner Walsh Garden & Home prior to Wednesday’s Downtown Pontiac Community Awards.
“I think, with the help of a lot of people like you, the downtown businesses and some of the good things happening in the neighborhoods, the city is on the verge of coming back. And if we stay on track, it will come back.”
Jukowski, elected in 2010, leaves office at the end of this year. Jukowski’s four years in office, which saw a succession of three emergency managers, were “in a lot of ways, some of the most challenging years our city has gone through,” he said.
Since the city’s police protection was contracted with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office in 2011, homicides are down 22 percent, robberies 25 percent and assaults 38 percent, Jukowski said.“ For that, we owe a huge thanks to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Division for really jumping in with both feet,” he said.“I know to a lot of people it was not popular, but I thought it was the right thing to do for the city.” The 2012 merger of the Pontiac Fire Department into the Waterford Regional Fire Department has meant preserved response times for less money, better equipment and training, Jukowski said. “That was critical in balancing the city’s budget.”
The outgoing mayor said the number one issue facing the incoming mayor and council is to pay for future retiree health care obligations, and said the only viable solution is to merge the city’s largest pension fund into a state system and use the fund’s surplus to pay the health care benefits. He also said it’s “critical” for city officials to receive decent financial and legal advice.
Jukowski said he remains a Pontiac resident and businessman.
“I will stay involved. Just on a different level.”
Downtown Business Association presents community awards
After performances by a Pontiac drum line and opera singer Melanie Arends, Downtown Business Association President Glen Konopaskie presented this year’s community awards.
“Pontiac is once again being cited by multiple leaders and venues as the place to be — the urban hotspot,” he said.
“We see an amazing potential for 2014 and beyond.”
Downtown has seen millions invested, new businesses and residents and building renovations in recent years.
The community award recipients were:
—The Design Award: Kathie Henk.
— Volunteer of the Year: Lenora Lighthall.
—Outstanding Achievement: Robert Karazim.
—Youth Award: Alyssa Lyn Vaughn.
—Senior Award: Dave Coleman.
—Service Group Award: Don Woodward of Grace Centers of Hope.
—Municipal Award: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Capt. Timmy Atkins and their department.
—Partner Award: The Greater Pontiac Host Committee.
—Community Award: Maureen Young.
—President’s Award: The late Francile Anderson.
“It is now our job (as those she mentored) to step forward and fill her shoes,” an emotional Konopaskie said of Anderson, who passed away in September.
“That task is not so daunting because of the leaders she created by mentoring people.”