Mayor Diane Joens selected as 'Hometown Hero of the Month'

Mayor Diane Joens participates in the sixth annual Mayor’s Walk a Mile for Meals at the Verde Valley Senior Center. Photo by Debbie Moore, Verde Valley Senior Center

Mayor Diane Joens participates in the sixth annual Mayor’s Walk a Mile for Meals at the Verde Valley Senior Center. Photo by Debbie Moore, Verde Valley Senior Center

COTTONWOOD - This month's Hometown Hero award goes to Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens for her dedication to our community, but more so for her support for our senior citizens.

Joens became our mayor in 2007. Four years earlier, she served on the City Council. Prior to that time, she was employed in the banking business.

Joens is not new to being involved in service and advocacy with our seniors. She previously worked at a senior independent apartment complex for seven years. And she was in charge of assisting seniors with their eligibility for the HUD and Rural Development Program.

Joens was raised in the Sierra Vista area when it was still called Fry. When she was 15 years old, Joens and her parents moved to Iowa where she finished high school and then married. While in Iowa, both she and her husband Paul farmed for 15 years. They returned to Arizona where they could enjoy being active outdoors hiking, biking and connecting with nature.

Joens genuinely knows what it is like to be a true survivor.  She has lost three children of her own, two children at birth and another at 12 years old. Joens' heartfelt belief is that she has a lot of love for reaching out to our community.

She wants to expand her love and share her humanitarian values and beliefs about seniors. Joens realizes that as our seniors age, they often are alone and may live a long distance from their families. Because of this, she believes and understands that the community needs to rely on hospice and other agencies to help our seniors. This philosophy is beneficial in keeping our senior residents in their homes longer.

In May of this year, Joens signed a proclamation for the City of Cottonwood to annually designate May as Older Americans Month, which will impact more than 3,600 citizens ages 60 and older. Joens' favorite quote in the proclamation is "the older adults in the City of Cottonwood have made countless contributions and sacrifices to ensure a better life for future generations."

In addition, Joens says that she is a big fan of Meals on Wheels and the Verde Valley Senior Center. She believes we need to support this special program more with volunteers. Diane also says that everyone - including volunteers - who works at the Senior Center is required to have a background check, despite the high cost of these checks. Our mayor of Cottonwood is also on the Governors' Council on Aging (GACA) and attends a two-day meeting every other month.

These committees and sub-committees work on legislative issues, via the Legislative Policy Coordinating Committee, which reviews the laws being proposed. Joens also participates in this committee and also studies these laws and policies, which might impact our seniors in our community. She also serves on the Social Health Alzheimer's Committee (SHAC) and was appointed chair of the Mature Workforce Committee.

One of Joens future goals is to work collectively with all healthcare agencies and senior providers to determine what are challenges for seniors and what are some of the solutions the community can provide.

I asked Joens, "What inspires you?" Her response, "The people I serve."

Joens is moved when the citizens of the Verde Valley and all the communities come together to support our region, simultaneously working with other mayors in surrounding towns. There is so much need.

The mayor told me that some of her best accomplishments are boosting the support of the Senior Center and Meals on Wheels. She is also pleased with Verde Valley Caregivers and organized churches, which have helped clean up our seniors' yards and provided many other good deeds. Joens even says that she is not afraid to get out there and roll up her sleeves to support our seniors.

I asked Joens, "What do you want people to know about you?" Joens response was: "I am compassionate and [I] care about others. My brand of leadership would be called Servant Leadership. I really want to bring all generations together for the reason that elders have so much wisdom to share with younger people, but they don't get a chance to do that."

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