‘Strong, healthy, ready to lead’: South Tahoe officials look to future at State of the City address

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — During its inaugural State of the City address, South Lake Tahoe officials looked back at accomplishments and forward to future initiatives.

Mayor Tamara Wallace started the address with an introduction to the City Council and the local government process.

“City Council is the what, city staff is the how,” Wallace said.

This year, the city has a staff of 200 employees and a budget of $114 million, $54 million of which is general fund.

While the city has had many successes over the last year, it’s impossible to look back without talking about COVID-19 and the Caldor Fire.

According to Wallace, the city received $270,000 in CARES Act funding but put $1.1 million back into the community with donations to the food bank, a gift card program, small business relief grants and small business loans.

In addition, they relaxed rules for business operations, such as allowing outdoor dining, and helped winterize outdoor dining.

During Caldor, the city evacuated 22,000 people on Aug. 30. fortunately, just weeks before on Aug. 3, first responders brought a new evacuation plan to the council, which they used during Caldor.

Despite those major setbacks, Wallace listed the city’s many achievements over the past year.

It invested in a new computer aided dispatch program for first responders, a public safety radio system and a body-worn camera system for the police department.

The Climate Action Plan was passed and the city is in the process of hiring a sustainability coordinator.

Housing had been a priority for the city and Wallace said the council is, “committed to putting every effort” into addressing the problem.

“Over the next few years, we are breaking ground on approximately 500 units,” Wallace said, adding that they will also be deed restricted for locals and workforce housing.

Another major focus for the city has been transparency and accessibility. The city is now translating all its meetings and agenda packets into Spanish.

They also created the multicultural alliance, the Arts, Culture and Tourism Commission and the Policy Advisory Commission. In addition, Wallace has hosted several Coffee with the Mayor events, which she said will continue when Mayor Pro Tem Devin Middlebrook becomes mayor, although she guesses they will become Beer with the Mayor events.

Next, City Manager Joe Irvin took the stage, during which he looked at the history of the city and the future.

“In my experience, cities are either growing or decaying,” Irvin said.

Looking back, he said the 1950s was a transformative era for the area, leading into the next decade in which voters approved the incorporation of the city of South Lake Tahoe.

The 1970s was an era of recreation and collaboration, including the development of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the opening of the recreation center.

In the 80s, the South Tahoe Redevelopment Agency was started and the focus of the city was to update the aging infrastructure.

Growth continued until the 2008 recession, during which the city pivoted to focus on future planning, which set the current council up for success.

“Now the city is strong, healthy and ready to lead,” Irvin said.

Irvin then spoke about his leadership philosophy, stating that he has five leadership pillars; people matter, leadership exists at all levels (have a culture of innovative thinking), being a high performing organization (doing more with less and doing it faster), learning from mistakes and results matter.

Irvin said that he vows that when he leaves, although he said it won’t be for a long time, he will leave the city in a better place.

Finally, Irvin looked at the accomplishments of the city staff and projects on the horizon.

A list of city services delivered during the last year.

In the last year, Irvin said 9,627 buildings were inspected, the fire department responded to 3,261 calls for service, 139 potholes were filled, 3,650 business licenses were issued, including 405 new businesses, 43 employees were hired, 101.5 hours of swim lessons were given and so much more.

In the near future, the city is working on the 56 acres master plan, building the new recreation center, expanding bike path and trail connections, upgrading public facilities, expanding broadband, focusing on defensible space and tackling housing and transit issues.

A recording of the speeches can be found on the city’s website or the city’s Facebook page.

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