Pop quiz centerpiece of Longview mayor’s 2019 State of City address

Longview Mayor Andy Mack turned the traditional public speech format on its head again during his fifth annual State of the City address — and several guests called it his best address yet.

Mack surprised luncheon guests Wednesday with a pop quiz.

The 20 questions did more than test their knowledge of Longview or give them a way to use their phones. They also painted a canvas of the Longview 150 sesquicentennial celebration next year and its future beyond to the business community.

“This was the best city address our mayor has ever given,” Longview Chamber of Commerce President Kelly Hall said. The chamber hosted the event under sponsorship by engineering firm Johnson and Pace.

In his first year as mayor in 2015, Mack delivered a typical State of the City speech, but in later years, he’s varied his methods — from highlighting each business tabled at the luncheon in 2017, to using videos of the city’s young people talking about Longview and its future.

Wednesday, the mayor’s address to the business audience timed with next year’s sesquicentennial allowed him to connect the dots through a business lens, Hall said, to help prepare the business community for Longview 150 to understand its importance.

“There’s great value in that,” Hall said. “That’s community pride, and today Andy (Mack) was our champion. He established the fact that our sesquicentennial is something to be proud of, and as a business community, we have a responsibility to help make it successful.”

The first questions were about who founded Longview in 1870 (O.H. Methvin) and the city’s current square mileage (55.9 square miles), but it moved into the oldest business still in existence (Gans and Smith Insurance), the first car dealership (City Garage, a predecessor to Pegues-Hurst Ford) and the first bank (F.J. Harrison and Co.).

Eventually, the quiz morphed into opportunities to update guests on the latest news in the city, such as the $282 million in road projects that Texas Department of Transportation leaders have proposed for the Longview area over the next decade.

“For the last multiple years — 10, 12, 14 years — someone else has gotten the lion’s share of TxDOT funds that come to East Texas, and it has not been Longview,” Mack said.

“Now, we are getting the lion’s share of TxDOT funding, because it’s time for us to take that money and see what we can do with it and see how far we can grow. Because we are on the move, and this connectivity is the key to growth, and as long as we continue to connect Longview with these TxDOT funds, we’ll continue to grow all the way from the inside out.”

Mack also spoke about his vision for opening greater visibility of Teague Park to the 23,959 drivers who travel down U.S. 80 daily.

Teague Park “is a wonderful, but hidden, gem in our community with beautiful ponds, green space and Veterans Plaza. Imagine what it would be like to open up visibility of the park to the highway and continue to improve the park with new park features,” he said.

The mayor’s third annual Go-Giver Gala, scheduled Jan. 11 just as the five-month Longview 150 celebration gets underway, is themed “Bring Back Teague,” as all proceeds will benefit improvements focused on the 46-year-old park, he said.

“I can see Teague Park as being such an asset in our community that not only opens up commerce and industry on Highway 80, but who would not like to go there and be able to go into Teague Park without feeling enclosed or afraid, having a wonderful addition that we’re going to do and have it open up to Highway 80 where you can see it from the street,” Mack said.

Gene Keenon, a Kilgore resident and governmental affairs manager for Republic Services, attended the luncheon. He said that what encouraged him most about Mack’s address from a Gregg County perspective was about TxDOT’s financial focus on the Longview area.

“It has fingers all the way out into the county, and it benefits everyone in the county,” Keenon said. “That’s a good thing, and to be able to draw that kind of money in takes a lot of work, and I know that a lot of people are involved in that. It’s not just one. It’s because of the diversity of our area that helps encourage TxDOT to spend the money and their time in Gregg County and Longview.”

Keenon’s words weren’t far in theme from how Mack ended his pop-quiz address.

“I want to thank each of you for the ways that you are serving Longview, as well,” Mack told guests, “because you being here are servants, as well, and I appreciate that. It’s an effort. It’s not one person or about one group of people. It’s a community, and we are one community.”