NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell on Wednesday praised the city’s efforts facing challenges old and new.

Mitchell was at New Bedford High School to give his yearly State of the City address, which was in person for the first time since 2019. The mayor emphasized that COVID-19 was not the only issue on the docket for city officials last year, but that efforts to mitigate the virus continue.

“The loss and hardship are impossible to quantify and will forever remain with us,” Mitchell said.

In the address, Mitchell thanked law enforcement and community partners for helping decrease crime in the city.

“This continues a record of success over the last six years in which crime overall in the city has fallen 39%, one of the sharpest declines in the country,” he said.

Mitchell praised the city’s efforts managing “abysmal” graduation rates. At New Bedford High School, graduation rates increased from 58% to 88% over 10 years, opening up opportunities for those young adults, according to Mitchell.

The mayor also announced some changes in budgeting for the city, delineating $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to develop vacant commercial properties and $5 million for renovating the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.

Mitchell touted efforts to reinvigorate the city’s coastline, which is home to the country’s most lucrative fishing port and an incoming wind farm.

“Our goal, simply stated, is to establish New Bedford as the top blue economy on the East Coast,” Mitchell said.