GARY | Outgoing Mayor Rudy Clay said Tuesday that Gary has become adept at tackling giants — especially financial ones — in his tenure leading the Steel City.
Before introducing Mayor-elect Karen Freeman-Wilson to more than 500 people at the Genesis Convention Center, Clay took an opportunity to recount his successes and challenges as the top government executive in his hometown.
He was appointed mayor in 2006 after Scott King resigned, and Clay was elected to the post a year later. In April, Clay abandoned his re-election bid after announcing he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
When he took office, the mayor said the city was $72 million in debt, which forced him to make difficult decisions to lay off workers, combine city departments, cut salaries and offer furlough days to workers. Clay said petitioning the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board for three consecutive years for relief from property tax caps also helped the city avert disaster.
"We tried to make sure that we had a city that we could hold together to give services to the community," Clay said.
He said in his tenure as mayor, the city has captured $1.2 billion in investments from businesses and various developers at places including the Gary/Chicago International Airport, United States Steel Corp. and Fresh County Market. He said there's a tremendous amount of momentum with developments at the airport and also promising is the planned construction of a residential facility for senior citizens at Seventh Avenue and Broadway.
He also urged Freeman-Wilson and residents to not be isolated within the city but to cooperate with entities and people from places around the region.
"The future of Gary, Ind., is right now," Clay said.
He received a standing ovation from the audience for his decades in public service in the region.