RENSSELAER — It seems whenever one project ends in Rensselaer, two more crop up to attract the attention of the mayor’s office and city council members.
That was especially true when the pandemic slowed progress for a period of 16 months as city officials everywhere worked to make improvements to infrastructure and stabilize their communities.
When the pandemic ended, Rensselaer got its foot in the door on a number of projects, including resurfacing the brick street in front of city hall. That project received federal funding last spring.
And working behind the scenes to get many of the city’s projects mobilized was Mayor Steve Wood, who announced last week he intends to seek re-election so that he can continue to contribute to current projects as well as any future ones.
“Not a lot of things were moving during the pandemic,” Wood said from the Jasper County Courthouse last week. “Then towards the end of 2021, we were able to acquire a grant to fix the brick street, which is something we worked to get a couple of times. Hopefully we can get that finished up this year. And we are now working on the water tower project (at I-65). We’ve really been busy since we’ve come back from the pandemic.”
Wood has served 16 years as Rensselaer’s mayor, including a four-year term in the late 1990s. He has served the community for three more terms since, with the first coming in 2012.
“I’ve tried to do the right things and I find these things out by talking to people on the street,” Wood said. “I try to explain what the projects involve and why we have to do them. My door is always open.
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“I must be doing something right because I’ve been here 12 years straight and 16 years total.”
A member of the Democratic Party, Wood is currently running unopposed in the Primary Election, which will be held the first Tuesday in May. In the General Election, he could see any number of candidates, including former city police chief Jeff Phillips, a Republican who announced his intention to seek the mayor position earlier this month.
Wood said he mulled over the decision to seek re-election with his wife Donna, who is on board with her husband’s bid to stay in office for at least one more term.
“People approached me about running again,” Wood said. “With so many projects needing attention, I thought I could continue to help. Local government is a different animal. People look to someone who can get the job done and I think I’ve done that.”
Wood also feels he has provided solid leadership for the city council, which he has a good relationship with.
“We have a good council,” he said. “I present things to the council and they’ve seen to do a lot of those things. I think with good leadership on my part, we’ve accomplished a lot of things and we can do more.”
Wood said he would like to see the city work towards providing more affordable housing and more housing projects over the next several years. Improving the quality of life with necessary water and sewer projects are designed to entice developers to do just that.
“I hope we become more of a bedroom community, and I think that takes more housing,” Wood added.