BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL)- The City of Bristol, Virginia now has a new mayor.
Neal Osborne was appointed on July 1 after serving on the city council for a year.
Osborne is now leading a city more than $100 million in debt and with previous councils that had a reputation for not always getting along.
The Bristol, Virginia native is a political newcomer, but believes he has the skills and grasp on the city and its people to effectively lead Bristol into the future.
“Supporting our school system, new tax revenue growth and protecting public safety,” those are Osborne’s priorities as he takes the helm as mayor of Bristol, Virginia.
The 31-year-old has been told he’s the youngest mayor. He’s an alternative school teacher with a background in sales who felt compelled to run for office.
“I saw the way that they were working together and said if you want to put a good public face forward, you need a good public face so you can attract businesses to the city,” Osborne said.
He witnessed councils under stress – working to figure out how to deal with over $100 million in debt – largely because of The Falls retail development that has not met revenue expectations.
At one point – the council considered cutting 10 firefighters positions to deal with the hole. Council then decided not to cut the positions.
Osborne said the city has turned a corner.
“We’ve set aside money to be able to pay toward the debt so we’re moving forward. The bigger debt payments start hitting in 2023,” Osborne said.
To continue on this path – he said the city needs to see more growth.
“We have some revenue growth going on. And with the potential for the casino later on down the road we should have more revenue growth, we should be able to handle it,” Osborne said.
Mayor Osborne said the $250 million resort and casino project at the vacant Bristol Mall could be a game changer.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the city. We’re talking more tax revenue than we could ever dream of a couple of years ago,” Osborne said.
He wants to move forward with the plans to build a new elementary school and says cutting first responders won’t happen on his watch as the city moves forward.
“Bristol’s best days are ahead of us and I firmly believe that,” Osborne said.