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As the calendar changes, so does Clearwater

People of various faiths recognize the holidays as a time of peace and goodwill. This season seems to bring out the best in us. Food drives are under way, gift baskets are being delivered, spiritual centers are bustling and families are traveling great distances to be with loved ones.

My family rejoices in the holidays. For us, it is a time of reflection and gratitude. I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity to work in a city with such promise. My wife, Karen, Brian Jr. and I feel blessed to meet and work with so many wonderful people.

I am immensely grateful for my colleagues on the City Commission. Daily, these individuals demonstrate their tireless commitment to Clearwater and its citizens. I am also grateful for the city staff that I have come to know and respect.

Like communities everywhere, Clearwater has experienced challenges this past year. How we respond to issues sets us apart from other cities unwilling to meet the challenges at hand. I think that we can achieve many of our goals. Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, "Change your thoughts and you change the world."

Clearwater is a community that is changing . . . for the better. City programs that bring people together have strengthened our neighborhoods. Police and fire services are expanding with new police substations and a Sand Key fire station. Our course is set for a new main library and a neighborhood library in North Greenwood. The beach and downtown both have major initiatives designed to balance the needs of residents while strengthening our infrastructure. A new community sports complex on the horizon will continue our relationship with the Phillies while providing athletic opportunities for young people. In addition, new recreation facilities are in the works for residents in North Greenwood and Countryside neighborhoods.

Interim City Manager Bill Horne just released our city's annual report, The Building Blocks of Partnership. In this report, he invites residents to participate in the process of maintaining Clearwater's reputation as a vibrant, healthy and community-driven municipality. I, too, invite your participation in this process. This past year has witnessed numerous community forums designed to garner your comments. Town Hall meetings, referendum meetings, roundabout meetings, Beach By Design meetings and others saw people from throughout the community share their hopes and dreams. Citizen involvement this year is encouraging.

Clearwater's summer referendum for downtown redevelopment emotionally distanced many people. Good people on both sides of this issue spoke with passion and conviction. At that time, many people shared with me their frustrations over what they called a divided city. The residents of Clearwater needed a time of healing and reflection to reunite as one city. That much-needed restoration of confidence is occurring. I am pleased to say that citizen response to our new management team and courses of action these last few months has been positive.

As we celebrate our holidays, I ask that we celebrate our diversity and cherish our commonality. Looking forward to the new year, we foresee many opportunities awaiting this wonderful city. My hopes and prayers are for your families as we work together to make Clearwater an even better place for everyone. From my family to yours, I wish you peace and good will this holiday season and in the coming year.

_ Brian J. Aungst is the mayor of Clearwater.