Gary Jorn on 10 Years of Falls City Growth and What Makes this Community Special
Monday, December 31, 2018
Gary Jorn, City Administrator for Falls City, has been on the job for nearly twelve years. During that time, he has overseen significant changes at the city, including major infrastructure and utility projects. With 52 years in Richardson County, he loves the area, enjoys his horses and is passionate about keeping Falls City on a steady path of incremental growth and development.
Former Mayors Oliver and Hersh have praised Gary for his steady hand and leadership with Mayor Hersh saying, “Gary, you have been there for the city. You have sacrificed, given sweat equity and pushed for improvement regardless of popular opinion. You have made wise choices and necessary improvements…you truly are paid only for your time and not what you are truly worth. Keep going, never give up and never settle for good.”
We wanted to learn more about Gary, his time as City Administrator and the goals he has for the city. Here is what he had to say –
What do you love the most about Falls City?
I like the volunteers. There are so many people who volunteer for committees and boards who help to make decisions that will impact Falls City’s future. It’s amazing the people who are willing to devote their personal time towards this cause.
What has changed during your tenure?
Internally, we are seeing a more proactive positive council that takes initiative to research issues to move the city forward. They are open minded and making decisions that will be needed in the future to better Falls City.
A lot of things I see are due to a domino effect. When we started improving the downtown, people took additional pride in their business and began doing more work to their business outside of the grant. There is a true positive atmosphere in Falls City.
How is the city’s economy doing?
Very well. We have a diverse economy and strong entrepreneurial culture. We have been fortunate that any time a business has left, we have found new businesses to grow or expand here. We have done a lot of good things with economic development. Our whole industrial park is completely full. We have doubled employment in some of the industries during my tenure as City Administrator, while improving infrastructure to accommodate new industry growth.
Speaking of infrastructure, you have overseen several large-scale projects to improve Fall City’s infrastructure. What have you accomplished over the past decade?
Thanks to the support of our Mayors, City Council, community members and staff, we have been able to achieve quite a lot. Our downtown revitalization will be completed next year, which has made our downtown more user-friendly and attractive. We have made several road improvements in the downtown core and elsewhere.
The largest infrastructure improvements have been to our utilities. We have upgraded our water system with improved water collection facilities and will be working on improvements to water distribution as well. We have also upgraded our electrical grid with the installation of a new generator that can power the entire city, should our electric supply be interrupted due to a storm or some other natural disaster. This is important for our residents, current businesses and our ability to attract additional industry in the future. My goal is to close the loop now to ensure that every aspect of our utilities are upgraded.
Throughout the process we want to keep rates competitive and so far, we have been able to do that. We had favorable interest rates on bonds and state revolving loan funds for the water treatment and collector well project. The only thing we bonded so far is the generator project, and we got good rates on that. Our past administration has put the city in a favorable position for purchasing electricity which helps us a lot.
What infrastructure projects have been community-led?
A lot of improvements have been made to parks, baseball fields etc. at the initiative of community members and volunteer organizations. $2 million in upgrades have been completed through private donations. Thanks to Falls City’s citizens, we are able to host state softball tournaments and high school tournaments now, which helps the economy by attracting more tourism.
Another example of a community-led initiative happened when students participating in the Lane Leadership program had to put together a program to graduate. Their first- and second-year class put together an idea of a splash pad and it came to fruition late summer. They did all the fundraising for the installation and mechanical part of it. The City supported the project by putting in a holding tank to reclaim the water and use for irrigation. That was $200,000 in park improvements and the community has enjoyed using it.
What do you see for the future of Falls City?
There are a lot of people willing to volunteer and promote the city, investing their personal time into the community to help make it grow. It always amazes me how many people come up with new ideas or new ways to start a business and so we are fortunate that we have entrepreneurs who are forward thinking and always looking to improve or move their businesses forward. Our strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and engaged community members ensure that Falls City is going to continue to prosper. My goal is to complete any necessary infrastructure improvements and upgrades so that the City is ready for the growth that is coming.