Jim Thornton believes that the most important function of local government is public safety. Therefore, he has been a tireless advocate for our police and fire departments. Under his leadership, the City has invested in those departments, with spectacular results. The LaGrange Police Department is one of the most highly regarded departments in the country, recently being reaccredited by the national accreditation agency “with excellence” (placing LPD in the top 10% of all accredited agencies nationwide). And the LaGrange Fire Department continues to maintain an ISO 2 insurance rating (placing LFD in the top 5% of fire departments nationwide and reducing insurance premiums for our residents). The Fire Department continues to provide response times throughout the city for fire and medical calls that are impressive.
A Safe City
When Jim took office in 2014, street gang crimes were on the rise nationally and LaGrange was not immune. Jim worked with the Police Chief and City Council members to see how LaGrange could respond to this challenge. As a result, in 2015 the City invested in four new police officers, including two gang specialists, one community outreach officer, and a middle-school resource officer. Then in 2016, the City invested in five new police officers, substantial technology, and a dedicated prosecutor with a grant to the District Attorney’s Office. For comparison, in the ten years prior to Jim’s tenure, no new police officer positions were created; but during his first four-year term, nine new positions were created, taking the police department from 80 to 89 sworn officer positions. These investments are showing dramatic results: in 2015, the City had 20 gang related shootings, but by 2016 that number was down to 17, and so far in 2017 (from January through August) there have only been 2. That is tremendous progress and a testament to leadership focused on problem solving.
Even though many, including Jim, hope to see more parks and greenspace developed over time, there is no denying the importance of our roads. Jim has been proactive in working with the County, the state DOT, and other partners in finding ways to improve our transportation infrastructure throughout the city. As a result, existing roads have been resurfaced, new roads are under construction, and intersections have been changed to improve flow. More work will be necessary as the community grows and prospers, and Jim will continue to look for solutions. This is another area where Jim has followed a model of constant improvement for LaGrange.
For over a century, the City has been the primary utility provider in our area. LaGrange maintains a first-class utility infrastructure, providing electricity, gas, water, sewer, telecom, and sanitation services to our residents. The City’s electric rates are lower that all surrounding cities and utility providers, and also has some of the lowest rates on the other utilities. Because utilities represent over seventy percent of the City’s total budget, it is imperative that these utilities are managed “like a business” and that sound management decisions are employed. Jim understands the importance of these utilities and strives to make sound policy decisions to continue their financial vitality.