Sangamon County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter and newly elected Springfield Mayor Misty Buscher took center stage at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel for the State of Greater Springfield Address, organized by the Chamber of Commerce. The luncheon provided a platform for the local leaders to outline their goals, share their vision, and address pressing community issues.
Mayor Misty Buscher, who began her tenure just nine days prior, wasted no time in emphasizing her commitment to effecting positive change within the community. In her address, Buscher acknowledged the notable turnover in department leadership, highlighting that such transitions are not only common but necessary to achieve her vision. "It's time for me to be a change maker for this community".
During her brief time in office, Mayor Buscher has actively engaged with citizens, listening attentively to their concerns which range from the Wyndham Hotel to improved EMS services. Furthermore, she has made a concerted effort to meet with state lawmakers, recognizing the importance of building a strong relationship with them.
Mayor Buscher's vision for Springfield encompasses a range of initiatives aimed at fostering economic growth and opportunities for residents. With a focus on job creation and attracting new businesses, Buscher looks to implement a citywide beautification project, explore the reopening of a lake area beach house, bring ancillary services to medical facilities, and expand education opportunities and technology within the city.
“I had pie in the sky dreams for Springfield," Buscher said. "I'm going to bring those dreams to action."
Sangamon County Chairman Andy Van Meter used his address to shed light on the significant initiatives undertaken by County leaders. Discussions on topics like carbon capture technology, wind and solar zoning,, and the Transportation Hub in Downtown Springfield were highlighted as areas of focus. Van Meter, who boasts over two decades of service on the board, placed special emphasis on fostering partnerships between the Chamber, the County, and the City concerning youth employment.
"Unemployed young people are a tragedy in preparation," lamented Van Meter. Recognizing the importance of work ethic and the satisfaction of earning a wage, he stressed the necessity of connecting local businesses seeking workers with the youth in the community. Van Meter commended the various organizations already engaged in youth employment initiatives and expressed a desire for further collaboration to address this pressing concern.
Addressing issues facing the County, Van Meter criticized state lawmakers for passing a law that limits the County's decision-making authority regarding zoning for wind and solar projects. Van Meter argued that local governments possess a better understanding of how to strike a balance between competing local interests.
“Zoning has been the responsibility of local government since the inception of the concept. The thinking has been that local governments know their neighborhoods, can best accommodate the views of different parties, and can best work out a compromise that is satisfactory to all,” said Van Meter. “Unfortunately, our betters in state government decided last fall that local governments were not capable of writing zoning regulations that were appropriate for their local community and instead imposed a single statewide solution to wind and solar farm zoning that will apply whether you live near Talulla, Carmi, or Galena.”