Editorial: Winds of change blowing strong through Verde Valley

Change is good and it’s been years since we’ve seen the kind of sweeping change now taking place in the Verde Valley.

We have new members seated on city/town councils and school boards throughout the Verde Valley. The change will be most evident on the Mingus Union and Beaver Creek school boards where departing board members have more collective experience than the rest of the new board members combined.

There also will be significant change at the administrative level of our local governments. Just last week, the City of Cottonwood named Ron Corbin from Yuma as its new city manager to succeed Doug Bartosh, and Yavapai College selected Lisa Rhine to succeed Penny Wills as the college president.

At the same time, the Clarkdale Town Council is in the midst of a search for a new town manager to succeed long-time and much-loved Manager Gayle Mabery.

The good news for Cottonwood is that its new manager comes from a city of 90,000-plus people. That in itself means Corbin will be able to see both the opportunities and pitfalls that inevitable growth will mean to Cottonwood and how best to negotiate those challenges. Especially valuable to Cottonwood will be Corbin’s experience with Yuma’s “infill development” program that repurposes existing buildings and infrastructure vs. expanding sprawl growth on undeveloped land.

For Dr. Lisa Rhine, the biggest challenge locally is selling the Verde Valley on the value of Yavapai College. The strong opinion locally – which is up for debate -- is that Yavapai College is a Prescott-centric institution that has been horribly neglectful of the Verde Valley and Sedona.

The challenge for Dr. Rhine and the YC board will be to expand and improve on the college’s course offerings in Sedona and the Verde Valley, and to build upon its relationship with the Valley Academy of Career and Technology Education to expand job-training opportunities locally. Beyond that, Yavapai College could greatly benefit by going on the offensive to sell the community on the education opportunities it already provides.

For Clarkdale, the challenge for a new manager will be the same ones that have been front and center for Mabery for years: how to provide, and keep pace, with municipal service needs in a town that is a classic bedroom community. Most recently, Clarkdale voters rejected a street improvement bond issue that creates a daunting challenge for the town council. Does Clarkdale leave its streets in disrepair or cannibalize its current municipal offerings to pay for much-needed street repairs. The emphasis here is on the word “cannibalize” as Clarkdale long ago trimmed its spending plan to a bare-bone basics model.

While the winds of change are now blowing throughout the Verde Valley, the encouraging news for our new leaders is that they are all inheriting strong and solid organizations.

Local government in the Verde Valley is not in need of a massive overhaul.

But it can certainly benefit from new sets of eyes to guide its direction.

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