by Diane Gonzolas
Visitors flocked to the Capital City for two historic events in 2017—the total solar eclipse and the 150th anniversary of Nebraska. In fact, Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide publisher, ranked Lincoln as the third “most exciting place to visit in 2017!” Trivago also ranked Lincoln fifth on its list of “best value destinations.”
We take great pride in rolling out the red carpet for guests. But city leaders also work hard to make Lincoln a great place to live. Lincoln is a safe city with a low cost of living. Venues like Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Lied Center and Pinewood Bowl present the top talent in the world. Our outstanding schools and colleges, beautiful parks and trails, top-notch medical services, growing diversity and vibrant arts and culture scene have earned us top national rankings as a great place for children, families, young professionals and retirees.
Lincoln also has a growing national reputation as an outstanding place to start a business and build a career. It’s recognized as one of the top ten cities for career women, entrepreneurs, creative professionals, college graduates and free lancers. Lincoln has one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, and one gigabit Internet service is available across the city. As a hub of the “Silicon Prairie,” Lincoln’s high-tech community is growing and thriving.
Local officials remain committed to smart growth—building our economy without sacrificing our high quality of life. By embracing innovation and working together, city leaders strive to provide the amenities of a big city without losing the friendly, small-town atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome.
Chris Beutler is serving his third term as Mayor, the chief executive officer and administrative head of city government. Voters also elect a seven-member City Council and a five-member Lancaster County Commission.
City Government Departments
Several offices operate as divisions of the Mayor’s Office. Aging Partners, an area agency on aging, serves adults age 60 and up and their families in an eight-county area. The city Communications Division provides important city information to the public. The Mayor’s staff includes an Economic Development Coordinator and an Ombudsman, who works to address constituent concerns and investigates discrimination complaints against city departments. Special Mayor’s initiatives include Cleaner Greener Lincoln and Stronger Safer Neighborhoods.
The Development Services Center (DSC) is a one-stop shop for the review, permitting and inspection of projects. The DSC is a collaboration of five departments: Building and Safety, Health, Planning, Public Works and Utilities and Urban Development.
Three departments operate jointly with Lancaster County. The nationally accredited Health Department provides leadership in protecting and promoting environmental and personal health. Human Resources is responsible for the recruitment, testing and selection of job applicants as well as training, employee and labor relations, compensation and benefits, workers’ compensation, risk, safety, liability and administering the Police and Fire Pension plan. The Planning Department reviews land development proposals and prepares plans for land use, transportation, utilities and other community facilities to meet future growth needs.
Other City departments
Building and Safety inspects new construction and existing buildings to make sure they meet health, fire and safety regulations.
The City Attorney’s Office provides legal advice to the Mayor, City Council and city boards and departments; initiates and defends legal actions; and prosecutes misdemeanor offenses and code violations. The office includes the Director of Equity and Diversity (who also reports directly to the Mayor) and the Human Rights Commission, which handles complaints alleging housing, employment and public accommodation discrimination within the city and conducts outreach programs.
Finance handles city funds and investments, prepares bond issues and helps develop the annual budget. It includes the Accounting and Budget Divisions, the City Clerk and the City Treasurer as well as two divisions that also serve Lancaster County—Information Services and Purchasing.
Lincoln Fire and Rescue is nationally accredited and provides emergency response to fires, vehicle crashes, hazardous material releases and medical emergencies as well as emergency ambulance transportation; delivers fire safety education; promotes fire prevention; and participates in the FEMA national disaster response system for Urban Search and Rescue.
Lincoln City Libraries is the community center for education, promoting literature, literacy and learning. The system includes eight libraries and the Lied Bookmobile, which also serves Lancaster County towns. The library also offers free community meeting rooms, the Polley Music Library and the Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors. At lincolnlibraries.org you’ll find audio and eBooks to download and music and movies to stream as well as access to electronic resources on many topics.
Parks and Recreation operates and maintains more than 132 parks, public gardens and open spaces; 90 playgrounds; 130 miles of trails; more than 110,000 public trees; six recreation centers; five golf courses; eight outdoor swimming pools, an aquatic center and two spraygrounds; a nature center; an observatory; and many athletic facilities.
The Lincoln Police Department is nationally accredited and uses community-based team policing, forming partnerships with neighborhoods to handle crime, disorder, social problems and other issues.
Public Works and Utilities provides drinking water, wastewater treatment, landfills, recycling operations, snow removal, street improvements, traffic operations, storm sewers and watershed management and operates StarTran, the city bus system.
Urban Development is the city’s Redevelopment Authority and works to encourage investment, particularly in downtown and older neighborhoods; manages downtown parking; and assists in revitalizing low- and moderate-income neighborhoods through federal grant funding.