By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
Benson Mayor Jerry Medlin has been in office for just a short time; however, it didn’t stop him from forecasting a bright future for the town.
His assessment came during his first State of the Town speech, delivered during Thursday’s Benson Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet.
The mayor presented a positive future for the Johnston County town that prides itself on being not only a great small town, but a progressive one as well.
He said the past year has been great and credited his predecessor and the town’s staff for making the successful effort.
He noted the fund balance well above the 20 percent threshold, and the town maintained a positive balance in both the general and electrical funds.
“The real important thing is the financial audit, and we had a clean audit this year,” he said.
Mayor Medlin said that assessment was supported by the town’s standing with the Local Government Commission.
“The real proof in the pudding is when you go to the Local Government Commission and they do their audit,” he said. “Then when you get through that, you’re finished. A great job was done on the financial end.”
He spoke of the decrease in electric rates that customers saw over the last two years.
He also promised no rate increase in 2018, ahead of projected rate increases in 2019.
“In 2019, there is a projected 3 percent increase, so we’ll see how that goes,” he said.
Mayor Medlin also touched on electric smart meter usage and the savings the town has created by its use.
Mayor Medlin also spoke about the grant money that has been available and appears to be on the horizon. Not only for infrastructure to public utilities and services, but to the parks and recreation department as well.
The key focus there is the creation of not only field house to boost the P.K. Vyas Park and planned sports fields, but services for both youth and adults.
“I believe that we need to have recreation programs for the adults, too,” he said. “Everybody wants to exercise and that’s the thing doctors tell them is to exercise, exercise.”
Mayor Medlin also touched on the new dog park and the new hotel under construction adjacent to Walton Avenue and Interstate 95.
“We’re so happy that the Hampton Inn is going to be open sometime in April,” he said. “We’ll have a first-class hotel in Benson.”
He also praised the new members of the board of commissioners and challenged them to bring new ideas to the town.
“Remember, we’ve got three brand new commissioners and they’re going to bring some new ideas to the board,” he said.
Mayor Medlin said the board will have a town retreat and indicated the results will lead to a future vision.
“When we’re finished with that, we’ll have a list of priorities that the future is going to bring,” he said. “And the things we think will make a difference.”
The mayor also reminded residents his door is open to them every week.
“Customer service and customer satisfaction are two things you’ll hear me talk about if you come around town hall,” he said. “I am a firm believer that if you take care of people and solve their problems to their satisfaction, they are going to be your supporters.”
He went on to admit while not everyone can be satisfied, there is no excuse for not making an effort.
“You should try hard to explain to them why you can’t,” he said. “That’s going to be our motto — customer satisfaction.”
The mayor is available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.