The term-limits initiative Lincoln voters approved in November will force Mayor Chris Beutler from office Monday, but the longtime public servant’s positive impact on this city won’t stop anytime soon.
During Beutler’s 12 years in the mayor’s office, anyone can see the city’s sustained, significant growth. But Lincoln underwent a metamorphosis in that time, beginning largely as a large college town and emerging as a big city punching well above its weight – one that added 35,000 people.
In the entertainment industry, the 250,000-resident benchmark serves as the tipping point from decent-sized city to major metropolitan area. Lincoln crossed that threshold in the 2010 Census – the same year voters approved the construction of Pinnacle Bank Arena – and then transformed its downtown. The resulting spark fueled expansion and renovation of the city’s core that’s still rolling a decade later.
Just as one can identify Lincoln’s prosperity during the Roaring Twenties by looking at the buildings downtown that still stand, the success the Capital City has experienced in this region will be evident for decades to come.
The arena – the most visible sign of Beutler’s time in office – stands out with its futuristic-looking silver exterior. But the growth of office buildings, restaurants, bars, hotels and apartments provided will carry downtown Lincoln into the future – and much of that owes to Beutler’s leadership.
Growth hasn’t been limited to the downtown area, though.
Development in the Stevens Creek area of east Lincoln took off during Beutler’s tenure, while expansion in many areas – especially in south Lincoln – means they hardly resemble how they looked in 2007, when he took office. Even the long-awaited South Beltway is moving toward expedited completion.
Beyond roads, Lincoln improved its handling of other forms of transit – especially bikes – in the past 12 years. The city’s comprehensive bike plan aims to build upon the expansion of bike lanes and trails that will make Lincoln a more inviting, environmentally friendly urban area.
Furthermore, Lincoln’s arts community could scarcely have had a better mayor. While some factions within the city opposed the public art projects -- most of which were privately funded -- he championed, Beutler prioritized art as a means of economic development. Even outside his official duties, he regularly appeared at the Lied Center for Performing Arts and the Ross Theater.
Much of that was because Beutler cared deeply about the community’s quality of life. That same desire manifested itself in an interlocal agreement between the city and Lincoln Public Schools that funded community learning centers and additional police resources for the district. Coincidentally, incoming mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s efforts helped a revised version gain City Council approval.
Before the retroactive term-limits measure passed, Beutler had announced his campaign for a fourth term. The voters narrowly denied him the ability to pursue it, with Gaylor Baird a worthy successor.
Even without Beutler in office, though, the successes the city achieved during his time as mayor will continue along with Lincoln’s positive trajectory.