There have been some true community anchors in the Verde Valley. We have just lost one. Pat Spence died Wednesday in a Phoenix hospital.
Spence devoted more than three decades of his life to government service to both Clarkdale and Cottonwood. He made arrests as a police officer and he made plenty of decisions as Clarkdale town manager. He will be remembered as one who could accomplish a lot with just a little.
Spence started at the bottom and worked his way rapidly to the top. He started in 1972 as a volunteer reserve officer and then as a police dispatcher before attending certification school and became a Clarkdale patrolman in 1981.
Spence was promoted to acting chief and then Clarkdale's full-time police chief in 1982. The following year, he assumed the dual role of both police chief and town manager for Clarkdale. Spence learned on the job and commanded every new position.
Jay Trewern, now the vice president for Business and Finance at the Southwestern Assemblies of God University, worked with Spence as town clerk in Clarkdale.
"We worked closely together for 13-14 years. I learned a lot from him. I was very young and new to management. I had a degree but not a lot of practical experience. He really taught me a lot over the years. It was great to work with him," said Trewern.
"He always had a knack for taking what looked like a real challenge on the finance side and stretching the dollar pretty well and getting a little more out of it. He was good about building relationships with people that he knew would be around for a while. He was a great guy. A lot of my management style I guess I would credit to things I learned working with Pat."
Gayle Mabery is the current town manager in Clarkdale. Pat Spence showed her the way up, too. She said he was a "scrappy old-school type manager."
"I credit Pat in large part for getting me into public service. He was instrumental for supporting not only me, but my husband, Scott, who is now Yavapai County Director of Juvenile Court Services. He was the manager in Clarkdale while Scott and I were attending NAU. I was pursuing a Business Administration degree and Scott a Criminal Justice degree. Pat hired me, first as an intern for the town in 1991, and then in a full-time position as the Town Clerk when I graduated the next year. He convinced Scott to become a Reserve Police Officer for the Clarkdale Police Department, which afforded Scott the chance to attend the Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy, and become a certified officer."
"We were just kids getting out of college, and starting our lives together, and Pat saw our potential and encouraged us to dedicate ourselves to public service. Over the years, I've often told Pat that, in the good times, I give him credit, and when times get tough in this line of work, he gets the blame. He touched our lives very much, and Scott and I are both very saddened by his passing."
Bill Snyder, a Clarkdale businessman, has been in and out of local politics for years.
"I think Pat will be remembered in Clarkdale as a town manager who was very innovative. He could figure out how to get things done on a very economical basis. He could accomplish a lot with not much
"Clarkdale was always short of cash, and Pat managed to get a lot done with not much to work with. For the time that Pat was the town manager, he did a great, great, job."
Cottonwood Police Chief Jody Fanning remembers that Pat could take command. "He was a very public guy and very well-liked by the public. He was direct and straight-forward."
Spence had left the dual role in Clarkdale to become police chief in Cottonwood in February 1996. Already struggling with health problems, Pat took off has badge for the last time April 29, 2005.
At the time, Cottonwood Mayor Ruben Jauregui commended Spence for his leadership.
"We've made a lot of progress with our police department under his leadership. As a community, we should all thank him for what he has done. He's been closely involved in the community and I will miss him."
Mabery said that during his years in Clarkdale, "Pat was always known and appreciated for his resourcefulness and common sense approach to getting things done. It wasn't unusual to see him get out of Town Hall and onto a backhoe to take part in a project with the public works crew. Those who knew him well knew that he had a big heart and cared deeply about the people."
Spence leaves a daughter, Minda, and many friends.