Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin delivered the annual State of the City address at the Community Center this evening, an address themed around the unsung heroes of the city administration and staff who keep Palm Coast going. He spoke before more than 200 people, including numerous representatives of local government, civic groups and local businesses–a lengthy address punctuated by half a dozen videos and culminating in the annual city awards recognizing leaders in their field. Carrie Baird, executive director of Flagler Cares, is this year’s Palm Coast Citizen of the Year.
Before Alfin’s address, K’imani Gervin-McCoy, who twice sang the National Anthem at the opening sessions of the Florida Legislature earlier this month, delivered another stirring performance of the Anthem. And City Manager Denise Bevan spoke of her history with the city and her attachment to the city’s natural amenities, personally and professionally, particularly Waterfront Park and what has evolved from the city’s Tennis Center into the soon-to-open Southern Recreation Center and the nearby Lehigh Trail Head.
“I’ve witnessed the city’s advancement and progress through the years, and my belief in the potential of our citizens and our organization is unwavering,” Bevan said, recognizing the city’s staff of 600. “Just like the last 20 years, we continue to plan for our future, and our collaboration has never been stronger with our partners at Flagler County and neighboring cities.” Bevan introduced the first of six brief videos before introducing the mayor, who in turn introduced Palm Coast Fire Chief Kyle Berryhill and Sheriff Rick Staly for brief remarks of their own.
Mayor Alfin’s remarks, as provided for publication by the city ahead of the speech, are below. The remarks do not include any extemporaneous additions.
Thank you all so much for being here tonight.
It’s the dawn of another year in our beautiful city, marking a time of renewal and revitalization. This year, I’d like to do things a little differently for this State of the City address. Instead of shining a light on what we are doing in the city, let’s point the spotlight where it belongs: on all of you. So please – just for a moment, turn to the person sitting next to you to smile and say welcome.
Today, we’re going to hear your stories, our stories. Palm Coast stands tall in its pride for public safety, commitment to maintaining and improving infrastructure, economic vitality, and exceptional quality of life.
But make no mistake, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. I believe everyone in this room would concur that as the word about our beautiful city attracts new residents to Palm Coast, we experience the inevitable growing pains. We know that there are focus areas that need our undivided attention, and we are making those a top priority. That is why we are dedicated to addressing traffic issues through a multitude of grants and traffic improvement projects. Our efforts extend to expanding stormwater capacity to better serve the community as a whole. Collaborating with our public safety partners, who are present here today, we are working to uphold an all-inclusive plan aimed at ensuring YOUR safety.
Throughout these endeavors, we actively pursue funding from local, state, and federal programs to alleviate the financial burden on our residents.
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What makes Palm Coast distinct is rooted in all who reflect our city’s triumphs and challenges. We are the sum of each other’s struggles, successes, dreams, and trials. We are Palm Coast.
Now, let’s hear from our heroes who serve our community.
As you can tell, Palm Coast is home to some of the most extraordinary first responders. Would all of our first responders present, please stand and be recognized?
Thank you for your service to our great city.
And now, I’d like Palm Coast Fire Chief Kyle Berryhill and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly to share an update on our public safety efforts.
Chief Berryhill: I’m Kyle Berryhill, Chief of the Palm Coast Fire Department, and I’m honored to stand before you tonight. I want to extend my sincere thanks to Mayor Alfin for inviting me to speak and to all of you for turning out to express your commitment and interest in the future of Palm Coast.
This year, our fire department achieved a significant milestone – one-half century of unwavering dedication to community safety. Tonight, I’m pleased to share some exciting news for our City: we are going to be establishing a new Seminole Woods fire station that will bolster our emergency response capabilities and ensure swift assistance when you need it most.
Family integrity and loyalty are at the heart of our department’s values, and you saw these traits reflected not only in the story shared in the video but also in our statistics from 2023. We took pride in educating over 10,000 young minds during Fire Safety Month, underlining our commitment to the well-being of our community.
In the face of challenges such as hurricanes Ian and Nicole, we stood firm, responding to disaster declarations and extending vital services during the recovery efforts in the Fort Myers Beach area. Throughout the year, our department handled an impressive 14,310 calls for service, a testament to our steadfast dedication to the safety of Palm Coast residents.
As we look ahead, rest assured that the Palm Coast Fire Department remains dedicated to serving you, our community. Thank you for your trust and continued support.
Sheriff Staly: I’m Sheriff Rick Staly, and it’s my pleasure to be here tonight. Thank you, Mayor Alfin, for the invitation to speak about some of the accomplishments achieved by the men and women of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office in 2023. They will all highlight the strength and safety of our community.
Notably, crime in Palm Coast has experienced an impressive 54 percent decrease since I took office in 2017, reaching a 25-year low. This achievement is a testament to the effective collaboration between our community and law enforcement—a true reflection of what we can achieve when we work together.
In a recent recognition, Palm Coast was named the 2nd safest city in Florida, and automatelife.net recently listed Palm Coast as the 39th safest city in the United States, affirming our commitment to providing a secure environment for all residents. Our communications center answers 911 calls within seconds and works directly with fire, police, and emergency medical units, confirming a prompt and efficient emergency response. In fact, our Communications Specialist First Class Megan Burton won Dispatcher of the Year just this week.
I’m proud to announce that our agency received the 2023 American Jail Association’s Innovation Award, acknowledging our groundbreaking efforts in detention/corrections. In the line of duty, we’ve responded to 117,931 calls for service and managed 3,152 crashes, underscoring our unwavering commitment to the safety and well-being of the Palm Coast and Flagler County communities.
These achievements reflect the resilience and dedication of our law enforcement agency. Thank you for your trust and support as we continue working to make Palm Coast a secure and thriving community.
Alfin: Palm Coast is a safe place thanks to the hard work and commitment of the men and women serving as our first responders. Their efforts and sacrifices are crucial in creating an environment where we feel secure in our homes and neighborhoods.
We understand that advanced preparation plays a critical role in addressing the issues that face a community.
Our hopes and dreams for our ‘City on the Rise’ are only wishes unless we put the resources in place for the next generation to carry forward into the future.
Let’s hear from members of our own Utility, Public Works, and Stormwater Departments on some of their efforts in 2023 to get us ready for the future.
I’d like to take a moment to invite the employees of these departments to stand and be recognized.
You have all played pivotal roles in maintaining Palm Coast’s infrastructure, and we are grateful to you for your determination and effort.
Despite economic challenges in 2023, our Utility Department has maintained essential services.
Collaborating with Flagler County and Florida Governmental Utility Authority, we’re pioneering efforts to expand water and wastewater services in our community.
Anticipating growth, we’ve fast-tracked an engineering study to increase the capacity of our treatment plants, aligning with our goal of a city whose infrastructure evolves responsibly by 2027.
We also conducted a thorough study that looked at different scenarios for addressing utility rates.
We understand that hearing about possible increases in utility rates can be unpleasant. But please know that these decisions are not made randomly. They’re part of a plan to ensure our utility services remain exceptional both now and in the future. When we think of critical services, we know that Palm Coast truly needs clean, safe water. We care about your opinions and appreciate your collaboration as we work to map out a resilient future for Palm Coast.
Continuing our journey, I’m delighted to spotlight the efforts of our Public Works Department. From keeping our medians maintained to managing traffic signal work orders to efficiently addressing potholes and hazardous tree removals, their commitment ensures the smooth flow of our city’s infrastructure.
In 2023, their in-house road and facility maintenance projects were a testament to their efficiency and their projects translated into significant savings of tens of thousands of dollars for our residents. Their meticulous asset management for fleet vehicles resulted in an impressive recoup of over $894,000 in the same year—an example of their strategic financial planning.
In 2023, the accomplishments of our Stormwater and Engineering Department, particularly the pipe crew, have shattered records and marked new milestones, underscoring their unwavering allegiance to excellence.
Their work ensures that our community is better equipped to handle challenges that may occur with our drainage system or, possibly, avoid them altogether. It also contributes to our sustainability and showcases its commitment to utilizing the latest technologies for now and in the future.
In Palm Coast, our commitment to public safety and the maintenance of critical services and infrastructure makes it an ideal place for residents to live and businesses to thrive.
Let’s listen now to some of our local business owners as they tell us, in their own words, what made them choose Palm Coast as a unique place to call home and run a business.
I’d like to invite our featured entrepreneurs to stand and be recognized. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us, and we wish you all continued success here in Palm Coast.
In 2023, Palm Coast experienced significant business growth in many industries. We renewed our commitment to supporting local businesses through the Florida Small Business Development Center. Our partnership ensures that our vibrant business community has access to a wide variety of assistance, promoting growth and encouragement.
We also celebrated the grand opening of Advent Health Palm Coast Parkway, a cutting-edge healthcare facility that has created over 600 jobs locally. This establishment is a crucial response to the health demands of our growing population.
In a monumental effort to elevate our healthcare sector, Palm Coast hosted a Healthcare Roundtable. This initiative convened stakeholders to fortify relationships, address workforce challenges, and ensure a thriving healthcare environment in our city. Resulting initiatives include investments in healthcare training, strengthened collaborations, affordable student housing solutions, and a focus on retaining local talent.
Healthcare infrastructure will continue to advance here in 2024. Construction is underway for a state-of-the-art Cancer Center at AdventHealth Palm Coast. This endeavor is a testament to our partnerships for our residents’ well-being.
As we continue to look ahead to 2024, Town Center and the SR100 corridor will be bustling with activity. The new BJ’s Wholesale Club is slated to open by summertime, bringing with it a handful of retail and restaurants. Miller’s Ale House and Longhorn Steakhouse have already been confirmed.
At the corner of Bulldog Drive and Central Avenue, The Promenade will soon break ground. This multi-use facility will have retail, coffee shops, and restaurants on the ground floor and 1 or 2-bedroom housing units on the top floors, ideal for young adults or students studying at the adjacent UNF and JU higher education sites. The rooftop will be a prime location for special events and the property will also include recreational amenities. This development injects vibrancy into our city. We look forward to sharing more information on this project and others later this year.
As you can see, Palm Coast is at the cusp of unparalleled advancement and prosperity. We eagerly support local businesses and are passionate about attracting outside industries that foster innovation. The synergy of economic development initiatives envisions a dynamic cityscape, reducing the burden on residential taxes and bringing more businesses to Palm Coast.
Our community thrives not only on hard work but also on hard play.
Our parks are more than just spaces; they are havens of beauty, joy, and relaxation. People are drawn to our area for our breathtaking trails, diverse wildlife, and thrilling recreation, all under the warm Florida sunshine.
Now, let’s hear from some residents who have experienced firsthand the incredible offerings of our Parks and Recreation Department.
Would those included in the video please stand and be recognized? Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and I think I speak for everyone here when I say we are so happy you found Palm Coast.
In 2023, we added new amenities to our breathtaking Waterfront Park. The endeavor, funded in part by a Florida Inland Navigation District grant, included the installation of a floating dock for kayaks and paddleboards, a spacious concrete gathering pad, and extensive landscaping. Phase B of the project is already underway, focusing on additional parking.
And to further enrich your waterway experience, a state-of-the-art rental kiosk offers kayak and paddleboard rentals onsite. A similar kiosk is planned for Long Creek in the next few months.
To add more exciting news, our residents will soon celebrate the opening of the Southern Recreation Center, made possible in part by the $739,000 grant by the Flagler County Tourism Development Council. The Southern Recreation Center transforms the existing Tennis Center site into a state-of-the-art complex with community meeting rooms, recreational programming, a restaurant, patios and balcony space, and 12 pickleball courts. The facility, which is part of the city’s parks and recreation master plan, will be the ultimate addition to our recreational landscape.
Adjacent to the Southern Recreation Center, you will find improvements to the Lehigh Trailhead. This project is a direct result of the partnerships of the Florida Department of Transportation and the River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization with the City of Palm Coast. Here, you’ll find community gardens, two dog parks, benches, restrooms, and a paved parking lot.
And for even more to look forward to — the recent successful completion of a sports feasibility study has paved the way for a proposed sports complex on the undeveloped western extension of Palm Coast. Encompassing indoor facilities and outdoor amenities, this complex is poised to become an economic catalyst, attracting visitors and creating sustainable revenue streams. Efforts are underway to secure a location, with private funding options being explored – all having a compelling impact on our community.
As we continue to navigate the path forward, let’s embrace the upcoming year with optimism, unity, and a shared pledge to make Palm Coast an even more wonderful place to live, learn, work, and play.
The awards:Now I’d like to introduce you to some of the most selfless and dedicated individuals I’ve ever met – those who go above and beyond to serve others. These individuals embody the spirit of service and volunteerism, and it is through their tireless efforts that our community continues to be a place where we are all proud to live. At this time, I would like to recognize three incredible residents who stood out in 2023 and thank them for their outstanding contributions to our community.
First and foremost, I’m delighted to recognize the recipient of this year’s Public Service Award – Mr. David Lydon. His unwavering dedication to serving the veteran community in Palm Coast and Flagler County has set an exemplary standard for public service.
For over seven years, Mr. Lydon has served as Veteran Services Officer for Flagler County. His commitment to the welfare of veterans is truly unmatched. As a career Air Force veteran and current reservist, Mr. Lydon embodies the values of honor, duty, and service.
In the spirit of Mr. Lydon’s own philosophy, we are all inspired to step up and contribute to the betterment of our surroundings. Let us not merely watch from the sidelines but, as he encourages, get out and help pull the wagon.
Congratulations, David Lydon, on being the recipient of the Public Service Award. Your service truly deserves this honor.
Next, it is with great pleasure that I announce the recipient of this year’s Citizen of the Year Award – Ms. Carrie Baird. As the Chief Executive Officer of Flagler Cares, a non-profit agency dedicated to building a robust social safety net for our community, Ms. Baird has demonstrated exceptional leadership and commitment to addressing the diverse needs of our community.
In her role, Ms. Baird has been a catalyst for initiatives spanning affordable housing, living wages, and support for the working poor. Flagler Cares actively tackles a range of essentials, from benefits and financial stability to mental health and homelessness.
Flagler Cares has pledged a minimum of one million dollars annually to address critical social service needs in our community, thanks to a generous endowment from Dr. Stephen Bickel.
Ms. Baird’s outstanding leadership, dedication, and transformative initiatives make her a most deserving recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award. Congratulations!
And finally, it is a privilege to announce the recipients of the Next Generation Award – Erik Libby and the To-Do-Dudes! Erik, as the Founder and CEO, embodies innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.
Since its establishment in 2020, The To-Do Dudes have passionately pursued a dual mission – fostering personal and professional growth in students while helping community neighbors.
Whether you need help with moving, outdoor work, errands, or house chores, The To-Do Dudes have become a beacon of support in the community.
Beyond their business success, they give back by donating to the Flagler County Education Foundation and volunteering for community initiatives, such as assisting with the City of Palm Coast’s Tunnel to Towers 5K event each year.
Erik Libby and The To-Do-Dudes exemplify the spirit of the Next Generation Award, showcasing a commitment to the development of future leaders. Congratulations!
As we reflect on 2023, it is evident that the strides we’ve made together underscore our vibrant spirit and our attachment to this city – to the people who make it come alive and the important work we do together to make our community better.
As we look forward to the year 2050, we stand at a pivotal moment to embark on shaping the future through the updating of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. This plan is a roadmap that guides our journey, ensuring that the Palm Coast we cherish today remains vibrant and resilient for generations to come. Many of us are not founders of our past, but we can be keepers of our future.
They’re right – We need everyone to be part of this conversation. As residents, your insights and ideas will shape the policies and priorities that will define our community.
I encourage you to engage in this process. Attend community forums, share your thoughts, and take an active role in shaping the future of our beloved city. Why did you choose Palm Coast, and what can we do to validate your choice? What do you envision for the future?
I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to each one of you for attending the State of the City. Your presence and engagement underscore the strong community spirit that defines who we are and why we care.
The story of Palm Coast is still being written, and your participation is essential to its narrative. Let’s continue writing this story together. Stay involved, stay informed, and let your voice be heard.