Tea bucks trend with sales tax growth, sees more housing demand

This piece is presented by the Lincoln County Economic Development Association.

When Mayor John Lawler began leading the city of Tea in 2002, it had approximately 1,800 residents.

John Lawler

Fifteen years later, it’s one of South Dakota’s fastest-growing communities and has a lot of momentum behind it.

Voters recently approved a new elementary school, new businesses are opening, and more housing is planned.

We caught up with the longtime mayor for a look back and a look ahead.

How is 2017 treating Tea? What kind of year are you having?

2017 is shaping up to be another solid year for Tea. New-home building permits are at 21, compared to 22 at this time last year, and our sales tax revenue is up, compared to year-to-date numbers from 2016.

If people haven’t been to Tea lately, what might they notice that’s new?

Our city athletic complex has developed into one of the best facilities in the area over the past five years. We are very proud of it and the increased activities our park and rec program has been able to provide for the youth in the community. We receive a lot of compliments from out-of-town teams and guests.

The city pool in Tea is a popular spot for families.

How’s your housing market? What kind of activity are you experiencing?

The housing market in Tea continues to be strong; like most cities in the area, existing homes are selling fast and new homes are being built. There is also a high demand for multifamily units, and we have seen a large increase in the amount of these units being built each year for the past three to four years.

Most communities hope to grow, but did you anticipate this level of activity in Tea when you first became mayor? Was there any sector that has surprised you?

The initial growth in Tea started before I became mayor, but what we have always tried to do is have steady, consistent growth. I think we have done a good job of planning to stay ahead of the growth from an infrastructure standpoint. You can’t stop the growth in this area, but you can certainly mess it up if you aren’t planning ahead. We work with a great engineering firm, HDR, and our employees are vested in our city. The amount of demand for multifamily units has surprised me in recent years.

What’s kept you wanting to serve for so many years?

Our employees and being able to see projects from start to finish. Our employees have great pride in our city and are very efficient in managing all aspects of the city to make it a great small community for people to call home. We all get tremendous satisfaction from taking an idea to improve the city and seeing it through the development phase and then completion like over at the athletic complex.

Looking ahead five years, what would you hope to see happening in Tea?

I hope in five years we have expanded the opportunities for people that live in Tea and the surrounding area to also work in Tea. This would not only help provide additional services for our residents but also improve the tax base for our school district.

Tea bucks trend with sales tax growth, sees more housing demand

When Mayor John Lawler began leading the city of Tea in 2002, it had approximately 1,800 residents. Fifteen years later, it’s one of South Dakota’s fastest-growing communities and has a lot of momentum behind it.

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