Mayor Will Sessoms delivered the annual State of the City address Wednesday afternoon in Virginia Beach.
Sessoms spoke in front of a sold-out crowd at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. He outlined the past year’s successes, the things that didn’t go well, and the plans for the people who live, work, play, and learn across the city.
Sessoms began his speech with a moment of silence for Lt. Cmdr. James Brice Johnson and Lt. Caleb Nathaniel King — two aviators based out of Naval Air Station Oceana who died after their jet went down off Key West, Florida.
Sessoms says projects and plans laid years ago are paying off in Virginia Beach.
“We’re on a roll. Not because of luck, but because seeds that were planted and cultivated years ago, and tended carefully are bearing fruit,” Sessoms said. “To continue being the greatest city in the world, we must constantly nourish our roots, build this city on solid ground and not yield to a handful of vocal naysayers who seem intent on stopping our progress.”
However, the city is facing some challenges, including tackling the opioid crisis. Sessoms says the city will join other cities and sue opioid manufacturers.
“We do spend a lot of money on addressing the money of the opioid issue in our community and we’d like to get that reimbursed as much as possible,” Sessoms said.
Sessoms says road transportation has improved in the last few years and now it’s time for air travel to improve. That’s why he’s creating a task force to look at ways to make flying into Hampton Roads easier.
“If we don’t have an airport that can get people where they want to go, like a direct flight to the west coast, or a direct flight maybe to Europe down the road, it will have a negative impact on our region,” Sessoms said.
Some of the new plans for the city include a 25,000-square-foot indoor sports facility, which will be funded by tourism revenue. The new sports center would be built near the Convention Center. Sessoms believes that will bring people to the city year-round and will unanimously pass in city council.
He said, “Someone might not be able to afford a vacation, but if a child is involved in a tournament, a soccer tournament, cheerleading, they find a way to get the child there.”
Plus, Old Dominion University is expanding into the city with programs in public health.
“This is a way for us to train more students and also for our students to have ways to have hands-on experience,” said Austin Agho, ODU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Sessoms also mentioned the city’s disparity study. He says the results are expected sometime this summer and he’s looking forward to getting them.
Other plans that came out of the speech include the city committing $321 million to fighting sea level rise. Plus, a new mental health facility for post- 9/11 veterans and their families.
Sessoms also mentioned failures– like the arena deal and the Amazon bid. He says those are in the past — and his eyes are now on Virginia Beach’s bright future.
“We crafted a bold, daring vision that rallies support around projects and industries that would pay off for our city and our residents,” Sessoms said.