The Mountain View Plaza strip mall in Mills was largely empty when Sarah Campbell opened her pet grooming business in the shopping center seven years ago.
“I was the only one on this end, other than the doughnut shop,” she recalled.
But that’s no longer the case. Campbell, the owner of Sarah’s Grooming, is now surrounded by neighbors, such as Expressions School of Theatrical Dance and 307 Healing Waters.
Although no one is likely to confuse Mills with Manhattan anytime soon, Mayor Seth Coleman confirmed Tuesday that the town is experiencing significant growth. The town’s population was roughly 2,000 at the start of the millennium, and had grown to about 3,400 by the 2010 census, according to the mayor.
Considering that about 300 new residences have been built in the last few years, Coleman said he expects Mills will reach the 4,000 mark by 2020, which means the municipality would then be classified as a first-class city by the state.
“I think it’s amazing,” he said. “Even through the boom or bust cycles that we’ve had the last few years, the population has [likely] more than doubled.”
Coleman credited private development for the town’s growth spurt, and said the council tries to “stay out of the way” when it comes to private business.
Rick Kaysen, the executive director of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, said Tuesday that any town that reaches a population of 4,000 is identified as a first-class city in Wyoming.
first-class city designations are mostly a symbolic milestone — like becoming a teenager or reaching a silver anniversary — but it does come with a few perks such as the ability to apply for more types of federal grants.
It also means the city will be required by law to hire a CPA annually to audit their finances, according to Kaysen.
Given the town’s growth, Coleman said the Council already decided it would be wise to create a town administrator position to oversee the different departments.
Mike Coleman was officially appointed to the new position at the Mills Town Council in October, he added. Coleman has been working for the city for about 15 years, and will continue to serve as the director for the Public Works Department, despite his new position.
“Like all of us in small organizations, you have to wear different hats at different times,” said the mayor, even with the town’s recent growth.
Everyone on Council concurred that establishing a town administrator position is in the town’s best interest, said Councilwoman Sara McCarthy.
“We really wanted to strengthen the management structure of the town government,” she explained. “We needed someone who could be heavily involved with the operation of all departments and then provide feedback to the mayor and council.”
McCarthy is enthused about the possibly of Mills becoming a first-class city, but not everyone is eager for the town to reach that milestone.
Dean Dickerson, the manager of Bid’s Place Pizza in Mills, said he’s hoping the Mill’s population will stay on the smaller side.
“Otherwise you get more government,” he said. “And more rules.”