When he announced in 2004 he would run for mayor of Aurora, Tom Weisner said the city had many skeptics, "beaten down by years of crime and disinvestment. I found few people who thought Aurora's future was bright," he said.
Thursday, he relished bragging a bit on what the city accomplished, despite the 2008 recession. And its best days are still ahead.
"The really exciting news is, I believe we have just scratched the surface. And it (success) is not dependent on any one person. ... You are the promise of Aurora and in your hands, I believe the best of Aurora is yet to come," he told the 400-some people gathered for his annual state-of-the-city address to the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Weisner will finish his third term in April 2017 and is not running for re-election.
"The world has seen Aurora in a whole new light," Weisner said.
He spoke of how improvements in streets, bridges, fiber-optic networks and even lowly sewers enabled developments. For instance, without the major sanitary sewer-overhaul the city did in 2006, projects downtown such as the new Waubonsee Community College campus and new library headquarters wouldn't have been possible, he said.
"Infrastructure may be boring, but it is absolutely fundamental to the growth and progress of our community," he said.
In the past year, Aurora issued the most building permits, with the highest construction-value dollar cost, in its history, Weisner said.
He spoke of businesses that have stayed and expanded, the return of jobs from China for Peerless AV, and several apartment-building projects.
Weisner also briefly addressed the city's reputation for violent crime. He said that during the first three months of 2016, the number of reports of gunfire are 50 percent lower than they were at this time last year. He talked about new Police Chief Kristen Ziman's developing new neighborhood support programs, in conjunction with the community services department.
Ziman, he said, "understands community engagement is key to lowering crimes. That is one of the reasons I appointed her as Aurora's first female chief."
Weisner also announced the city's plan for a new park, on the site of the former West Aurora High School at Blackhawk Drive and Galena Boulevard. The building was torn down in 2015. The city owns the site but will turn it over to the Fox Valley Park District, he said.
The city may also buy and give two parcels near the Northgate shopping center in the Bishop Park/Riddle Highlands neighborhood to the district for a park, he said.
And it is finalizing a redevelopment agreement for the former Soderstrom Pallet factory on Indian Trail Road, for housing, and is also working on a plan for the former Aurora Specialty Textiles plant, between Illinois Street and Indian Trail.
He wrapped up showing a concept drawing for North River Street, from the Fox River to Route 31. It showed stores, housing, and a museum. "What museum?" Weisner asked. Maybe one devoted to blues music, or a new SciTech, he said.
"There is so much promise in Aurora," Weisner said.