In his 2023 State of the City address, Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller encouraged citizens to “be intentional” and be “difference makers.”

Fuller addressed a crowd of community leaders and business professionals at the evening event, held March 29 at the Bottling Plant Event Center in downtown Opelika. The event, hosted by the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, featured a cocktail hour, followed by remarks from Fuller and Opelika Chamber President and CEO Ali Rauch. The evening concluded with music and dancing.

“I’m humbled and proud to be the mayor of such a great city,” Fuller said. “… We had a great year in 2022.”


Fuller, now in his fifth term as mayor, noted Opelika’s growth and improvements not just in 2022, but since he first took office in 2004.

“Some … 18 years later, we’ve added 5,000 new jobs and $2 billion … in capital investment, so that’s folks like y’all and us making a difference together,” he noted.

Fuller said Opelika has recently seen improvements to the community in terms of safety, lifestyle, recreation, workforce and infrastructure. Some of these include a new police department and municipal court, library and senior center, as well as sidewalk improvements and renovations to the Covington Recreation Center.

In addition, Opelika has celebrated a slew of new businesses from downtown to Tiger Town, including QuikTrip, Crumbl Cookies, the much-anticipated Botanic and many more. Existing heavy-hitters like Golden State Foods and Hanwha Cimarron also announced plans to expand, investing millions of dollars in the community and adding more jobs.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have these industries and businesses that continue to invest in our community,” Fuller said.

The city continues to support its “first-class school system” as well, he added.

But all of these and more are the result of citizens and city employees being intentional in their efforts to make a difference — something Fuller said he strives to do each day.

“My personal goal each day when I go to work at city hall … is to try to make a small difference in the life of our community, and I’ve been doing that since 2004,” he said. “Just a small difference — but if all of us are working to make a small difference, think of what that will mean to our community, to our churches, our schools, our business and our families.

“… I think the city of Opelika is very intentional about the decisions that we make so that we can make a difference in the lives of our citizens in our community.”


Fuller spoke to the importance of having a balanced budget in the city, which allows these changes and improvements to be implemented.

“Folks, I know where the money comes from,” he said. “… It comes from you and it comes from me. It comes from taxpayers. This is your money that we’re spending, and we’re very much aware of that — not only myself, but the city council and all of our departments.”

The year 2022 saw some “great numbers,” he added. Actual revenue came in at nearly $156 million — well over the expected $149 million — and included over $48 million in sales tax and more than $5 million in property tax.

Opelika also saw a record-breaking year for residential housing, which Fuller referred to as a growing workforce in the city.

“We had the highest number of activity ever with construction value at almost $309 million,” he added.

Over 600 new single-family homes were permitted and built — 113 more than the previous year. Opelika also recorded about 15,000 total Opelika Power customers, a result of the growth.

Rauch also spoke on the progress of Forward Opelika, which has raised nearly $2.57 million of its $2.77 million goal to help the chamber tackle community issues.


In Public Safety, Fuller praised the “Safety Shanes” — Opelika Police Chief Shane Healey and Fire Chief Shane Boyd. The new firefighter training center hosted 21 classes in its first full year and issued more than 330 certifications. The Fire Department also streamlined its response procedures, responding to about 6,200 calls in 2022. A brand-new station is in the works, which will help improve response times.

Fuller also praised first responders for their response to the July fire at Maffia’s in downtown Opelika.

“Thankfully, due to a quick response, a lot of well-trained firefighters and assistance from our friends in Auburn, we were able to avoid a catastrophic outcome and extinguish the fire without too much damage to adjoining structures,” Fuller said.

Opelika police in 2022 continued efforts with Together, Opelika and several nonprofits to bring about “sustainable changes in the community.”

The Police Department is also implementing its new “Knowledge Is Power” program, building relationships with community members and educating students and adults.

“While the rest of the country seems to be trending up [in crime statistics], Opelika is trending down,” Fuller said, attributing much of that success to Healey’s leadership and commitment to his staff and community.


Parks and Recreation stayed busy with several building projects and renovations. It added an archery park and pickleball facility, renovated the softball park and Opelika Sportsplex weight room and broke ground on two new disc golf courses and several Floral Park renovations and additions. Opelika also hosted the 2022 ARPA swim meet in the spring, bringing almost 1,000 swimmers to the area, and is preparing to host a large pickleball tournament this June.

“That kind of activity is good for our restaurants, our hotels and our businesses, and it’s also good to generate a little sales tax,” Fuller said.

The Opelika Public Library saw success in 2022 with more than 500 programs, including its new author visit series. The library also recorded more than 270,000 visits and will soon add a new “Makerspace” to its offerings, set to include four 3D printers, a button maker, an engraving machine and more.

Fuller praised the city’s communications team, which includes Leigh Krehling and Caitlin Allen, for keeping the public informed and educated about new developments. The department is also responsible for the city’s United Way campaign, which raised more than $50,000 in 2022 — a new record. They also plan to start a podcast soon.

Downtown also received recognition, with Opelika Main Street earning multiple awards in 2022 and the city celebrating a month of successful Christmas events.

Fuller shakes hands with an attendee following his remarks.

Multiple other city departments have much to tout as well, Fuller said. The city is in the process of upgrading its recycling center, the courtroom welcomed three new members and the Engineering Department completed several projects in 2022 to help Opelika become more sustainable, livable and safe. The city also fulfilled well over 30,000 work orders across all departments.

Lastly, Fuller named City Administrator Joey Motley, City Attorney Guy Gunter, City Clerk Russell Jones and Administrative Assistant Barbara Arrington for making a difference in his life and the community.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together,” Fuller said at the close of his remarks. “… We do this together as a team, and I look forward to continued success in the years to come. I think our city is strong, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We must remain future-focused, and I think that our future is bright.”