Election 2016 Q&A with Cottonwood mayoral candidate Tim Elinski
Verde Independent: Describe your level of formal education and how this education relates to your ability to perform the duties of a mayor? Also include any training and experience you have received that will help you fulfill your role as mayor?
Elinski: The two biggest assets which will serve me in the role of mayor are eleven years of public service and seventeen years as a self-employed, licensed contractor. I am fortunate to come from a family lineage of strong business owners and entrepreneurs, gleaning applicable skills since childhood. After completing 2 years of university, I joined the working class, starting my business in 1999, building and maintaining a consistent customer base and weathering various economic changes. When I relocated to Cottonwood, I became involved in local politics and have served on the Planning and Zoning Commission, City Council, and am chair of the Historic Preservation Commission among other boards and committees. I am a Fellow of the Flinn-Brown Leadership Academy, remaining active in this network of leaders from across the state. I am well connected with our community and am prepared to serve as Cottonwood's next mayor.
Verde Independent: How would you describe your leadership style?
Elinski: I have been in a leadership role for 17 years now in my own business and 11 years as a public official serving Cottonwood. In business I always ensure there is open communication and clear expectations from both parties. I then give direction to employees or subcontractors, and hold them (and ultimately myself) accountable to meet those expectations. I am fair, but rigid when it comes to accountability, I set the pace and lead by example. As chair of the Cottonwood Historic Preservation Commission I have applied the same principles and have always tried to discover the strengths of each fellow commissioner and build consensus on the issues that we face. In business my goal is my customer's satisfaction, in politics my goal is a better community. I am a tireless, positive force in pursuit of these goals, and this resonates and inspires others on my team.
Verde Independent: Through the campaign season, there has been much discussion about the financial position of the city. What would you do to ensure the financial sustainability of the city and to reassure citizens that the city is financially sound?
Elinski: Ensuring the financial sustainability of the city moving forward will require spending tax dollars in accordance with our income and to stop spending as though we are a much larger city with a broader revenue base. Though past leadership has touted Cottonwood as being the commercial hub of the Verde Valley, the average citizen's median income is but $19,000/ year, which is lower than our surrounding community's. We must be sensitive to this fact and spend our citizen's tax dollars in a manner that will support them and positively impact their bottom line. Reassuring citizens that the city is financially sound will require a much larger and more open public dialogue during budget session. Outreach will be critical to engage a community which is too strapped to get involved, and our council, under my leadership, will work hard to connect with the real needs of our community.
Verde Independent: The city is processing two large developments to include 89 and Vine, consisting of 2050 residential units at build out, and the Vineyards that will have 550 residential units. Do you support these developments?
Elinski: Having grown up in Arizona, watching new developments sprout from the ground has always been bittersweet for me. Though the jobs created are a good boost for the economy, the services and natural resources needed stress the infrastructure and character of our community. Stopping such growth is not possible. I have always pursued managing it wisely. 89 & Vine would have hundreds more homes if the City had not annexed the land and whittled the number of housing units down, and the Vineyards has a great mixed-use aspect which will bring more affordable housing than we've seen in the past. These are steps in the right direction to keeping our impact on groundwater and city infrastructure to a minimum. By encouraging more infill developments, mixed-use zoning districts, and higher density where appropriate, I believe we can better achieve our goals.
Verde Independent: Citizens have expressed the desire to see more commercial offerings such as a Costco or Target along with some more chain restaurants. Would you support the development of such commercial developments?
Elinski: I understand the community request and would support development of larger retailers. However, I will work much harder to support our existing small business owners, and will do everything I can to educate our public on the benefits of shopping and supporting our local merchants first. We know that more money stays in our local economy when we purchase from a local business rather than a chain. By creating strong business alliances coupled with an effective education campaign about the goods and services offered in Cottonwood, I believe we can encourage our residents to stay and shop in our community businesses. Not only will this help our bottom line, circulate more money locally and maintain current jobs, but will create a sense of local pride. We are fortunate to have many mom and pops in the Verde Valley and opportunities for economic growth and entrepreneurship not yet realized.