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Sat, Aug. 24

Dorothy Benatz, Clarkdale were a perfect fit

At the time, some folks were claiming it was the biggest scandal in years to hit Clarkdale.

It was, at the very least, the biggest scandal in the past two weeks.

Or, maybe it was just a slow night for television on that Tuesday night some 20 years ago when half the town of Clarkdale showed up looking for a fight.

One thing is for certain, though, the goings-on that night at the Clark Memorial Clubhouse were far more entertaining than anything you would ever find on TV.

At issue was a re-zoning request for a parcel of land sandwiched between Patio Town and Lower Town. If successful with his zone-change application before the Clarkdale Town Council, Luke Cannon would be allowed to relocate his salvage business to its present-day location.

The entire Clarkdale Police Department, all six of them, were there to break up the fistfights in the parking lot.

And just when it seemed like a riot was about to break out, Mayor Dorothy Benatz banged her gavel on the wooden table, shook her head back in a manner that was a dead ringer for Katherine Hepburn and firmly announced, "There will be order in this meeting."

You could have heard a pin drop.

It's not that Dorothy could intimidate you. She was barely 5-feet tall. Her style was to pacify rather than confront conflict. She was a peacemaker.

So, when Mayor Benatz did exhibit the kind of fire she did that night, people backed down. They all knew the truth: "Hey, this is Dorothy Benatz. No one will ever love or care more for this town than she does. She's not going to allow a decision that hurts our town."

Mayor Dorothy Benatz was the most loved, respected and powerful political force the Verde Valley likely will ever see. She was as synonymous with Clarkdale as the Wizard was with Oz. Folks in Clarkdale claimed to set their watches by her morning walks to Tuzigoot National Monument. When she first ran for town council in the 1980 municipal election, 201 voters cast ballots. Dorothy received 198 votes. She served as the town's mayor until Jan. 5, 1988.

Prior to her run of elective service, she worked at Town Hall for 17 years, the last 10 of which she served as Town Clerk. When she resigned as mayor, Dorothy had written more than 50 percent of the minutes on file at Town Hall and had attended more than two-thirds of the council meetings dating back to 1957.

Prior to that, beginning in 1938, she was the extra set of eyes every parent needs for their children when she began her first career at Clarkdale High School before it was unified into the present Mingus Union High School.

In her later years, one of Dorothy's greatest passions was continuing the work of her old boss, Herb Young, in documenting the history of her beloved town. She once said that Clarkdale was the kind of town "you bought and laid under the Christmas tree."

She was right. The old historic parts of Clarkdale can't be beat.

The place is adorable.

It's authentic.

It has integrity.

And those are the very reasons Clarkdale and Dorothy Benatz were such a perfect fit.

She was exactly the same way.

Editor's Note: Funeral services for Dorothy Benatz will be Monday, Oct. 10, 2 p.m., at Westcott Funeral Home in Cottonwood with burial to follow at the Valley View Cemetery in Clarkdale.

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