BY MICHAEL MILLER
SAVANNA — With a 4-year record of community involvement, new Savanna Mayor Chris Lain has some definite goals planned for the city during his tenure, including the renovation of the main street area, addressing safety issues, and redeveloping Savanna’s picturesque river front area.
Lain, owner and operator of The Savanna Marketplace, was born and raised in LaPorte, Indiana, and went to college at Columbia College in Chicago, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Afterward, he worked for big box retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Lain moved to Savanna in February 2013 after falling in love with the city after a downtown walk in January.
He then set about involving himself in community events and planning, including the Savanna MAPPING project, known as Savanna in Motion, became president of the Savanna Chamber of Commerce, and served as the city’s Hotel/Motel consultant for a period of time.
“I wanted to see things moving in a positive direction,” Lain said after becoming involved with helping the community. He originally planned to run for city council.
“It’s such a gorgeous area, has so much to offer that I wanted to see it succeed. I wanted to see it go a little bit quicker than it had in the past.”
He said the adjustment from citizen to mayor is going well.
“Everyone here at the city has been very supportive and helpful, with the learning curve. I’ve never been involved in government before, it moves a lot slower than I thought.”
He cites setting regular hours for himself as a key factor in why the transition has gone well.
“I’m not coming and going constantly and I’m someone who works well off of lists and structures,” he said.
The new mayor plans on utilizing and having faith in his team of department heads.
“I think one of the things that has made me successful in my career is my being able to work through my people,” he said. “I plan to really empower the department heads to make their own decisions . . . they are the ones who are here all the time . . . I am here to support them and to guide them, whatever they do need.
“It’s very important for people to have pride in their jobs—that they have the power to make those decisions, for productivity purposes.”
Lain plans to “re-streetscape” the Main Street area, focusing on sidewalks, trees, purchasing new planters and trash receptacles. He said there is $30,000 in this year’s budget for the project, and that the city is getting ready to purchase the planters and receptacles, with matching benches.
The downtown area will also be completely repainted, including parking slots and side streets. A routine will also be established for regular painting of crosswalks and weed removal.
He was originally hoping this all could be accomplished sometime in 2018 or 2019, but the necessary grants will not be secured until 2020.
Lain has other goals, including immediately addressing safety issues in the city, including sidewalks. He also said after the completion of the wastewater treatment plant and the Savanna/Sabula bridge, he wants to make the redevelopment of the riverfront area a priority.
“I just feel it’s on the Great River Road . . . we need to look clean and look welcoming and inviting, so that people are stopping and enjoying our riverfront and main street.”
He hopes this initiative will give residents more access to the riverfront as well. He also plans to continue removing dangerous and dilapidated properties, an effort begun by his predecessor, Tony McCombie who now serves as State Representative in the 71st District.
Lain says he plans on hiring a new Hotel/Motel consultant as well, and “looking more strategically at what areas we market to.”
The new mayor says that since the Tax Increment Finance seminar in April, four businesses have applied for assistance. A fifth that did not attend the seminar also applied. He notes excitement that two new businesses—The Mona Bara Club and A.O. Elliott—opened on Main Street this past week.