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Gary, Indiana

Source: MattGush / Getty

GARY, Ind. — Eddie Melton has been mayor of Gary for 19 days and he says he is already being proactive in trying to lift Gary out of its stigma.

“Our tax base has taken a hit over the last several decades,” he said. “As you know, Gary once had roughly 200,000 individuals (living here). Last census we were close to 70,000, so we are very intentional with providing basic services the best way we know how to our citizens.”

That population decline has been attributed to the loss of manufacturing jobs in and around Gary, mainly when it comes to the country’s steel industry.

Melton, a former state senator, was one of 250 mayors invited to the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C. this week. He said he plans to take what he learned from other mayors at the conference and apply it to his city.

“What we are doing is focusing, strategically, how to stabilize our economy and stabilize our population,” Melton said.

Investments in transportation and infrastructure have been a good starting point for his administration, according to Melton.

Already, he said, Gary has an appeal to people from the Chicagoland area looking for a cheaper place to live. He said they are already seeing subtle growth in population simply because Indiana’s taxes are cheaper. Melton said a 30-to-40-minute train ride from Gary to downtown Chicago feeds into that as well.

Still, blight, gun violence, and many other factors still hinder that growth for Gary, which Melton said feeds into problems with mental health in his city.

“Vice President Harris just spoke (at the conference) about this,” said Melton. “Leveraging the president’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention and bringing some of these best practices from this conference back to our local communities.”

Melton said the collaboration of mayors at the conference is invaluable not only to his city but to other cities around the U.S.