Published Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 | 1:35 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 | 4:25 p.m.
On April 16, 1953, Henderson was incorporated with a population of slightly more than 7,000 people and an uncertain future.
The community was born a decade earlier when its magnesium plant became a critical cog in the United States’ World War II operations, but many workers left once the war ended.
Over the next 60 years, Henderson’s population swelled to 260,000 people as the city transformed from an industrial center into a thriving suburb with a diversified economy and a nationally recognized parks system.
Mayor Andy Hafen reflected on how far the city has come and looked forward to continued growth Wednesday during his annual State of the City address.
Speaking to a crowd of almost 900 people at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Hafen celebrated a successful 2012 and promised to keep working to better Henderson in the coming year.
“Trends have come and gone. We’ve had our ups and downs. But the essence of what makes Henderson great has never changed,” Hafen said. “For 60 years we’ve worked to build a community that is rock solid … We’ve built streets and roads and parks and infrastructure that makes our residents’ lives easier and makes Henderson a great place to live, work and play.”
Hafen’s half-hour speech highlighted successes from various city departments.
Two new parks were opened in 2012 with three more scheduled to open in 2013, he said. The city is also focusing its efforts to make the area more bike-friendly and is planning several community biking events over the next year.
“There is currently no city in Southern Nevada with a ‘bicycle friendly community’ designation. We intend to change that,” he said. “As part of our 60th anniversary, an initiative is under way to promote the health of our residents, improve the environment, reduce congestion and enhance our recreational opportunities.”
Hafen took office in 2009 after 22 years on the city council at a time when Henderson was reeling from the recession. The city has faced continual budget deficits since, forcing $120 million in cuts over the past several years even as the population grew.
The city has responded through a hiring freeze, employee buy-outs and debt restructuring, which Hafen said he hopes will help finally get it “back in the black” this year.
Several new businesses, including Brock Racing, Bluepoint Solutions and Creative Tent, relocated to Henderson in 2012, bringing hundreds of jobs to the city, Hafen said. The opening of the new Cowabunga Bay water park in 2013 is expected to create several hundred more seasonal jobs and drew the largest applause of the speech from the crowd.
Absent from Hafen’s speech were mention of the Union Village health development and the proposed stadium complex, two multibillion-dollar projects that were promoted by Hafen and other members of the city council throughout 2012.
Although Union Village is still on track, the city has since sued the developer behind the stadium project, alleging fraud.
“Obviously we’ve had a bit of a hiccup with the sports arena. We’re still working on that and we want to assure the residents that no tax dollars will go into that project,” Hafen said. “Union Village is still plugging along. I don’t when they’re going to close on that property, but it is soon.”