While Mark Messer had filled in for former mayor Amy Brewer from time to time during her absences —representing the city at a meeting or event or presiding over a council meeting for the past eight years — he says he’s excited about taking on his new duties as Lebanon’s mayor.
During Wednesday’s reorganization meeting, Lebanon City Council selected Messer to serve the next two years as mayor and fellow Councilman Adam Mathews to be vice mayor.
“I’m excited about becoming mayor,” Messer said. “I played this role in the past and the Mayor (Brewer) and I worked together for a long time.”
He said he learned a lot from Brewer throughout his tenure on council.
“She lived by example and didn’t have to say a word,” he said. “She modeled perfectly what it means to be a leader and a mayor.”
At her final council meeting, Brewer said she believed Messer “would do a great job and will lead the city forward to the best place it can be.”
Brewer announced Thursday that she has pulled petitions to run for Warren County commissioner in the May 2022 Republican primary.
Messer, 37, said the city has a “good team” serving on council for the next two years and expects more growth as new businesses continue to come to Lebanon.
“We’re solid and our biggest challenge will be working through annexations as the city continues to expand,” he said. “We want to do what is best for the community.”
Messer said council’s role is pretty clear in the city charter and that the strong manager form of government is “a fantastic way” to govern a city.
“The council is the mouthpiece to guide policy from the 5,000 to 50,000-foot view and energize and work with the city manager on policy goals,” he said. “We have a great manager and department heads and they’re the reason for Lebanon’s growth. They’re fantastic.”
Messer, who has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Liberty University, opened a gym about a dozen years ago in Lebanon as well as working with his brother at his father’s company in the textile industry.
He said he’s always been “super-interested” in politics and government at the state and national levels. That interest led him to get involved with the Warren County Republican Party, which led him to running for city council 10 years ago.
“It was a desire to see the community thrive, and I wanted to be involved,” he said. “That’s when I decided to throw my hat in the ring to run for office.”
Messer said he’s been developing relationships since, and said having community support is “awesome.” He described himself as action-oriented — and that he has a goal-driven personality but is not a perfectionist.
“I am do-do-do and let’s get after it. Make a plan and achieve goals,” he said. “I’m real and approachable and I’m concerned with the same things residents are. I want the community to thrive and continue to grow. I’m proud to live in Lebanon and I am honored to serve them.”
Messer and his wife are the parents of two children and are currently living in a rental home after a fire destroyed their home in August. He said it’s been a long process and that they are working through it.
“Being in this role can be difficult on a personal level and take a toll on you and your family,” he said. “I’m honored to take this mantle for the community.”
Messer sees Lebanon continuing to grow and noted that the 2022 operating budget is the largest in city history at more than $100 million. In addition to bringing in new businesses, he said there will be a number of infrastructure improvements, the updated zoning code should be completed, developing larger shovel-ready sites for future development and building good relationships with the townships.
He also said the recently approved master plan will provide the marching orders to see how the community is to grow. Other projects include the Glosser Road connection to divert truck traffic from going through downtown Lebanon.
While Messer said being mayor “is not a forever thing,” he said he’s a stakeholder in the community with two children, who cares about their education and that they live in a safe, healthy community.
“I hope to be one of the pieces to drive that forward,” he said.
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