At look back at 2018 with Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski
Cottonwood City Council agendas certainly weren’t on the slim side in 2018.
I sat down with Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski at the Red Rooster Café in Old Town to recap some major Cottonwood Council items of 2018.
We talked about the election, sales tax increase and quite a few other things.
Cottonwood had an election this year. We said goodbye to longtime members, Karen Pfeifer and Linda Norman, and swore in new members: Michael Mathews and Doug Hulse. Kyla Allen was the top vote-getter and ended up keeping her seat. How is the new council settling in so far?
Elinski: So far so good. I know there was some tension during the election – there always tends to be, unfortunately -- but I don’t see any of that carrying over on the dais. I think all of us are eager to go into our planning retreat and figure out what our common goals are and charge ahead.
Keeping up with the theme of new faces, Cottonwood also selected a new city manager, Ron Corbin from Yuma. Can you walk us through how the process went down for those who haven’t been following along?
Elinski I talked with the other mayors and managers in the area to find out what they’ve done. I got together a few different options for council to consider and was very pleased to discover that council felt strongly about hiring a frim to represent us.
That took a lot of heavy lifting off of our shoulders which is really important because we’re a mostly volunteer board so finding the time to do the search and sifting through applications would have just been very burdensome.
I was pleased that we hired the Novak Consulting Group and worked with Jenn Reichelt. She did a nationwide search and came up with over 100 applicants for us. She narrowed that list down to between a dozen and 15 for us to sift through. At the end of the day we just had four applicants to interview.
We sifted through feedback through community stakeholders, through city staff and had a very long conversation about who would be our best city manager and Ron Corbin really rose to the top. I believe he’s genuinely excited to come on board with the city and I just couldn’t be any happier.
What specific qualities did Corbin have that led to his approval by council?
Elinski: He has a very calm demeanor. And I think that’s just important in someone’s character. He has a strong background in human resources and I think given that the council wants to continue to search for efficiencies in what we do, I think it’s important to have a manager who has experience with all departments.
Cottonwood voted 4-3 to raise its sales tax this year by half-percent amid some mixed reception. You were the consistent swing vote in the decision in the decision but there were some moments where you seemed a little bit on the fence. Can you talk about what went into your decision?
Elinski: It was a very difficult decision for me. I certainly rode the fence throughout the whole discussion and at the end of the day, I know that infrastructure is one of our top concerns in this community. I wanted to take a real aggressive approach on who we start to fund our infrastructure. That half-cent sales tax increase will help us get there. My expectation is that we will see immediate results in infrastructure improvements in the city.
Cottonwood has been on the crossroads concerning a new city hall. One potential location that has peaked its way into council discussion is the Rough Cuts building on Main Street. You’ve been a strong advocate for that location and even wrote a My Turn for the paper in favor of it. But the response from council and public has been mixed. Do you see Rough Cuts being a future agenda item? What do you predict the outcome will be?
Elinski: I do believe that the Rough Cuts discussion will surface again. Especially now that we have two new council members on the board so I do want to take a fresh look at it.
I think that with the assistance of our new city manager, I’m confident we will come to an outcome. We just need to spend a little bit more time on the front side, laying out all the advantages, anticipating all of the pitfalls and laying out all of the information for council to make an informed decision.
Last spring, the city was faced with a scandal when former Cottonwood foreman Hans Burnett was accused of forging drinking water test results. An investigation showed that the sample was contaminated, rather than the water itself and the issue came from more of an error in protocol. What lessons can the city take from something like this?
Elinski: It’s such an unfortunate thing that occurred on a lot of different levels. I think it will take a lot to restore our water customers’ faith in the system. The lesson there is: how do we allow this to happen? How will we prevent it from happening again? We need to make sure there are many checks and balances in place, make sure we have the right managers in place, make sure we have our employees as well-trained as necessary.
What were some Cottonwood highlights of 2018 you’d like to share?
Elinski: I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast ... You know, 2018 would be an election that resulted in some great council members coming on board. I think the Cottonwood Community Clubhouse, CDBG funds … the renovation we did with support of the CDBG funds was a great success.
Other highlights of course include a successful city manager search that I believe has resulted in a fantastic city manager that’s going to serve this community really well.