PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — “The state of our city is good, and it’s getting even better,” said Mayor Kenny Wright, who delivered his sixth and final State of the City Address of his term on Wednesday afternoon.
Wright spent a majority of his roughly 40-minute speech touting the city’s successes, but he also vowed to help overcome its challenges.
“We are at the beginning of a new era, a new Portsmouth,” Wright said. “To me, that means new and innovative ways of engaging with our citizens.”
Wright said community engagement will be “at the forefront of everything” the City of Portsmouth does.
Among the successes, Wright listed Portsmouth’s investments for new buildings, apartments and park improvements, as well as achievements in the city’s school district.
Wright said there’s currently $160 million in private investment citywide, with $100 million in the downtown area alone to finish 800 new units.
The number of accredited schools in the Portsmouth School District has gone from six to 11 out 19 total schools this year, according to Wright. Dr. Elie Bracy III, who was hired as superintendent of the division last spring.
Wright also talked about future projects, which include a $35-million Churchland Bridge replacement project and an estimated $20 million renovation to Portsmouth’s seawall.
The Churchland replacement project will replace the narrow northbound span of the bridge with a wider 51-foot span. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
Wright spent six minutes of his address on challenges the city is facing, which includes combating crime. So far,in 2016, the city has recorded one homicide. Homicides more than doubled in 2015 from the previous year.
Wright says newly-sworn police chief Tonya Chapman will soon unveil a new geographic policing method. The plan will put a community policing team into specific sections of the city to build relationships with residents.
Wright says he will be running for re-election in November, dismissing claims that he’s failed at leading Portsmouth as mayor.
“I love this job,” said Wright. “We’ve always had critics. You’ve got critics in everything you do. I was born and raised here. This is my calling, I want people to say, ‘we’re proud of that kid.'”