Those who haven’t met City of Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder may not fully know his strategic mind, charisma and enthusiastic passion for his city. ThurstonTalk had the opportunity to sit down with Mayor Ryder and learn more about what he felt went well in 2017, his goals for 2018 and his ultimate vision for the City of Lacey.
Reflecting on 2017
Mayor Ryder was pleased with the passing of the Transportation Benefit District in 2017, which uses a 1/10 of 1% from sales tax to maintain infrastructure such as roads. Ryder is proud of Lacey for having one of the highest pavement indexes (which measures how well roads are maintained) in the state of Washington. He attributes this to the city’s mindset of continuously investing in the maintenance of roads rather than having to spend much more by waiting for roads to fully fail and need a complete rebuild.
“It may not be sexy, but it’s smart,” said Ryder. “I think we make good use of taxpayer dollars and this is a classic example of that.”
Other projects from 2017 that Ryder identified as successful included the city’s partnership with the Port of Olympia to invest in flex industrial space and a reserve set aside from their economic development toolbox/strategic investment fund to help make smart future infrastructure investments without having too high of a price tag.
Growth of Parks and Recreation
Ryder sees investing more in the development of Lacey’s parks and recreation system as a key move in 2018. While Lacey has a history of being a spot for outdoor recreation, Ryder wants everyone to be within a ten minute walk of a park and even explore the option of developing an indoor athletic facility and metropolitan parks district (to help fund development and maintenance of parks) – especially since he wants the city to be even more attractive to families and millennials.
Septic to Sewer Conversions
Another pressing issue on Mayor Ryder’s agenda is the need for converting homeowner’s septic tanks to city sewer systems. The price tag on conversion is expensive but the septic systems are on older homes which are now heavily fixed income households or rentals, which Ryder highlights isn’t fair to expect those individuals to put out the full price tag of the conversion.
“I’m really interesting in seeing what sort of program we can develop to make the burden of switching from septic to sewer as little as possible,” commented Ryder. “It’s an issue that affects everyone in Lacey and on this water basin because with our failing septic systems, [the waste] is all going into our ground water and will eventually hit a critical mass where our aquifers get polluted and we can’t use [the water].”
Employment Options and Housing Affordability
Another pressing issue is the high rate of population growth in the community. While the growth can have an impact on housing affordability and job availability, Mayor Ryder is both excited and ready for the changes as the council and himself continue to plan ahead for what this growth can do for Lacey. In 2018, Ryder will continue to explore how to bring in more jobs, retail sales and housing options across the city of Lacey.
One of these efforts will include finding new ways to make a variety of housing options to the community by working to adapt certain housing programs/fees/etc to have more incentive like they have already done with Accessory Dwelling Units.
Lacey’s Past, Present and Future
Mayor Ryder has both Lacey and politics deep in his blood. Generations of his family have been living in Lacey for over 100 years, he went to Lacey Elementary and now he’s even raising his family in his childhood home. Because of this, Mayor Ryder believes both his heart and brain are committed to preserving the true backbone of Lacey while preparing for the growth that’s already begun.
“The majority of all of the growth that is going to happen in Thurston County is going to happen in Lacey’s urban growth area,” added Ryder. “We have a lot of opportunity to make sure we have the type of community that we are all proud of, like walkable communities and great parks…a good balance between families, retirement and military communities. It’s all right in front of us, we just need to keep the vision together and we’ll see it happen.”