Election Q&A: Cottonwood mayoral candidate Holly Grigaitis
Holly Grigaitis Verde Independent: When you are Mayor, how might the City of Cottonwood change?
Grigaitis: Cottonwood will, once again, become fiscally responsible. One of the most important roles of the mayor is to set the agenda for the coming years. We have a badly broken budget, a bloated bureaucracy and we are using the profits from our non-profit water company to bail out our flat broke general fund. Recently my opponent stated he does not believe Cottonwood is heading towards bankruptcy. The fact is, the city is already there, and is using water profits or grants for daily operations. That’s why your bill has increased 400 percent. Income to the city has increased a whopping 25 percent in the past 5 years, and still, my opponent supports a new property tax. That tax would need to be about $800, just to cover city employee costs. It’s very clear the big government policies of the last 10 years, have done a lot of damage to the long term financial health of our community.
Verde Independent: What do you see as the function of the Mayor, and what are the Mayor’s responsibilities and authority?
Grigaitis: The mayor is CEO of the city. In business, a CEO oversees the financial health, longevity and future direction of the company- a mayor must do the same for the citizenry. Unfortunately, under our current “weak mayor” structure, that task is made enormously difficult if council members are not of like mind. Imagine owning a company, but are unable to hire or fire staff, and, are required to take all the advice of your advisors. That’s essentially the position of our “weak mayor” structure. The main reason I’ve declared I will be a one term candidate, is a desire for Cottonwood to explore whether future mayors would benefit from these capabilities. Currently, Cottonwood’s citizens are stuck in the same position as a stockholder when a company is struggling. Management blames the CEO, the CEO & board blame each other, nothing improves, and stockholders lose money. To be effective, a “weak mayor” must have a strong, powerful voice.
Verde Independent: How might Cottonwood’s economic development strategies change under your leadership?
Grigaitis: Right now our strategy is, at best, disjointed. We have an economic development director, who works to attract new business to Cottonwood, while design review and planning continually install roadblocks for projects & business who want to come to Cottonwood. The reality is, the private sector creates economic development, not government. Entrepreneurs and business built this country. Locally, big business built Clarkdale and Jerome, while family farms and ranchers built Cottonwood, Cornville & Sedona. Largely, all were built without thousands of pages of regulation, or thousands of dollars of permit fees. Tourism will always be a robust part of our local economy, but it shouldn’t be our sole area of concentration. The city has only 4 sq miles of land to work with; The best approach we can take is to become the most attractive business environment, while working with neighboring communities and the county in the pursuit of a more diversified economy within the Verde Valley.
Verde Independent: How can you as Mayor foster (improve?) Cottonwood’s relationships with other communities in the Verde Valley?
Grigaitis: I’ve always viewed the Verde Valley as one community. Citizens will move in and out of city limits, or to a neighboring community, without feeling like they left home. It’s so much more than geography- all of our communities rely on one another in many different aspects and nearly all have friends or family scattered across the valley. We’re neighbors. From an outsiders perspective, it seems Cottonwood has followed the philosophy of , “Good fences make good neighbors.” Annexations by the city were not well received by neighboring communities. Cottonwood infringed on the rights of county citizens by purchasing water companies far outside jurisdictional boundaries. Taking a fresh approach, realizing our interdependence, and the vast benefits of mutual cooperation is a critical first step. Candid conversations with local community & business leaders of where and how we went wrong is the next logical step to improving relationships.
Verde Independent: What do you think Cottonwood’s place is as a regional player in the Verde Valley?
Grigaitis: Sedona is the tourism hub, while we are the commercial hub. Many local communities rely on us for employment, shopping, car repair, medical or professional needs. Ethically, we have a duty to carefully consider how our actions affect them when forming our policies or spending revenue. We need cooperation and collaboration regionally to better all our communities and Cottonwood’s track record in this area has been poor & lackluster. In the coming years, the Verde Valley will need to address the growing problems of traffic congestion, and affordable housing. These issues should be addressed in a regional manner. It’s good common sense to have good working relationships with the county and neighboring communities. We can achieve much more working together than we can on our own.