Editorial: Residency requirement for town marshal comes back to haunt Camp Verde council

The common sentiment in Camp Verde right now is that the answer to what he should do about the Camp Verde town marshal vacancy is staring Town Manager Russ Martin right in the face.

Martin most likely would agree with that.

Commander Brian Armstrong has now served as Camp Verde’s interim town marshal for nine months now. A lot of folks believe he would be a perfect fit for the job. He is well-liked and respected by the community and the staff at the marshal’s office alike.

And so while the answer of what to do about finding a successor to former Marshal Nancy Gardner is staring Martin right in the face, there’s this funny thing called politics that make the obvious not quite so obvious.

If you remember a few years back, there was a highly contentious debate in the community -- and on the town council -- about whether Marshal Gardner should be required to live inside the corporate boundaries of Camp Verde. She had requested permission to live in Munds Park, and commute to work in Camp Verde.

It’s not an unusual request. In fact, there are examples of city/town managers and police chiefs alike in the Verde Valley who reside outside the corporate boundaries of the municipalities they serve. Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell doesn’t live in Cottonwood. Clarkdale’s longtime Town Manager Gayle Mabery doesn’t live in Clarkdale. That hasn’t adversely affected their job performance. It certainly has not diminished their loyalty and commitment to their communities.

But in Camp Verde’s case, in a split vote, the town council decided its police chief must reside in the town limits, or at least within the boundaries of the 86322 zip code.

Guess what? Brian Armstrong lives in the Village of Oak Creek. According to town code, he is not eligible to serve as town marshal even though no one sees any problem with him serving as “interim” town marshal.

That puts Martin is a precarious situation.

The town council already has voted on this issue. It smacks of favoritism if Martin were to ask council to reverse that decision. Besides, Martin already has tossed that bait right in front of the council’s nose when he made Armstrong a finalist for the job. There were no bites among council members to revisit the residency requirements of the town marshal that would, in turn, allow Martin to hire Armstrong.

The ultimate job offer went to a fine candidate from New Mexico, who subsequently turned the job down because of a family emergency.

As for the town council, taking a second look at the residency requirement for the town marshal would make it look like Gardner was being singled out.

But without the town council stepping up to free Martin’s hand on this hiring decision, Armstrong is the odd man out.

All politics aside, that is a shame.

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