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Meet the candidates for Road Improvement District Board

Melina Fuhrmann, Karen McClelland and Stephen Smith

Melina Fuhrmann, Karen McClelland and Stephen Smith

On the November ballot, residents of the Big Park Region will elect two Board members for the Red Rock Road Enhancement Maintenance District (EMD).

This is a special taxing district formed pursuant to Title 48 of the Arizona Revised Statutes to provide maintenance of the landscaping (including weed abatement), pedestrian lighting, sidewalks, benches, trash receptacles and banners along State Route 179. The boundaries of the RRREMD project are 1.63 miles along SR179 from the Coconino National Forest boundary in the south (approximately 890 feet south of Rojo Drive, milepost 305.45) to the Coconino National Forest boundary in the north (approximately 465 feet north of East Bell Rock Boulevard, milepost 307.08).

All properties within the district pay an ad valorem tax to RRREMD via their annual property tax assessment collected by Yavapai County. Oversight of the district is provided by five Board members who are elected by the residents of the district, with a chair and vice chair chosen from their ranks. The District contracts with independent third parties for landscaping maintenance service, pedestrian lighting maintenance and other miscellaneous duties. Administrative and board services are provided by Improvement District Services Inc. based in Prescott. The RRREMD website is ImprovementDistrictServices.com/red-rock.

Early ballots will be mailed Oct. 12.

This election cycle, there are two vacancies with three candidates. The terms of three current board members – Dave Norton (chair), Joanne Johnson and Valna Wilson – do not expire until 2024. Stephen Smith is the only incumbent running, with Melina Fuhrmann and Karen McClelland challenging for the available seats.

Melina Fuhrmann

“In my opinion, the No. 1 issue facing the district in the coming years is to find cost-effective, sustainable solutions for our landscaping that keeps it looking beautiful but does not negatively impact environmental and human health,” Fuhrmann said. “After successfully using a non-toxic herbicide for several years, the current board voted to return to using Roundup at the beginning of this year. Since research shows that the active ingredient glyphosate may be linked to cancer, birth defects, and other health problems, there is growing public concern about the use of Roundup. The RRREMD Board needs to be ahead of the curve when it comes to this critical issue.”

Originally from Wellesley, Massachusetts, Fuhrman has an MA from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies with a focus on European Studies and International Economics, as well as an MBA from the European Institute of Business Administration.

She lived in Europe for 28 years, primarily in Switzerland. After a decade in international banking, she said she changed course an attended the Barbara Brennan School of Healing and became a holistic health practitioner. She and her husband, who was a Member of Parliament in Geneva, moved to the Village of Oak Creek with their teenage daughter, three cats and dog in 2020. That fall, her elderly parents moved in with them as well.

As an MP, her husband “was instrumental in eliminating glyphosate from local agriculture,” she said. That inspired her to run for the RRREMD board and tackle the issue locally.

“With my financial background, I also have the financial acumen to represent residents’ concerns for fiscal responsibility,” she said.

Fuhrman said the board needs members who can ask the right questions and think outside the box.

“I am looking forward to working with the Red Rock Road E.M.D. Board also on providing transparency to the public within all aspects of their mandate,” she said.

Karen McClelland

“I think returning to the use of a non-toxic herbicide is very important,” McClelland said. “I also think that we will need to look at how the landscaping contract is awarded, what it contains, and how it is monitored as part of the due diligence of an elected public board member and a good steward of the taxpayer dollars the board appropriates.”

McClelland has lived in the Village of Oak Creek since 1987, raising her son, who graduated from Sedona Red Rock High School and Northern Arizona University. The daughter of Joan and Clyde McClelland, she has served five terms on the Sedona-Oak Creek Unified School District Governing Board. She collected signatures to create the RRREMD.

She has worked in retail, the Post Office in Sedona and at a savings and loan over the years.

“My mother was very involved with the Big Park Regional Coordinating Council, VOCA, Yavapai County and the All American Road Committee. I see my election to the RRREMD board as a continuation of my mother’s involvement in the preservation of our community for ourselves and future generations,” McClelland said. “As a simple but important step, we must return to the use of a non-toxic weed control program. I believe that we can accomplish this and also make the RRREMD Board better known and more responsive to the residents of VOC and Big Park.”

McClelland touts her experience on an elected board – recognized as a master of boardsmanship, All-Arizona school Board award-recipient and Legislative Advocate of the Year – and her involvement in local and statewide nonprofits.

“I have been a resident since 1987 and a visitor since 1980 and have seen many changes to Highway 179 and our area,” she said. “Maintaining the appearance of the roadway and preserving the beauty and open space of our community is vital to me and all the residents of the VOC area. I am committed to doing this.”

Stephen Smith

“As both a resident and for the past year a Board Member, the top issue facing RRREMD is consistent performance,” Smith said. “Now 15 years old, areas within the District are in continual need of repair and maintenance to sidewalks, benches, lighting and irrigation systems. But of utmost importance is maintaining the visual presentation and the overall landscaping along this corridor on a consistent basis for everyone’s enjoyment.

“Residents may not be aware that there was no weed barrier installed, thus the grasses and weeds can grow unabated. Developing a long-range plan to reduce the annual labor costs for pulling weeds/grasses and spraying will achieve a more consistent presentation for the District that we all take great pride in each day.”

A Chicago native, Smith attended NAU and graduated from Arizona State University in 1978, “so my roots and love for the area run deep,” he said. His career started in advertising/marketing. As such, he worked for a national retailer for several years before joining the largest publicly traded shopping center developer around the country and ultimately working in commercial property management with another firm that recruited him, learning all aspects of the field.

Smith has owned property in the VOC for 20 years. He and his wife moved to the area permanently in 2018.

He has been president of his HOA board three years and vice president one year. He was asked to fill a vacant seat on the RRREMD Board in 2021.

“During that time, I have learned about, but certainly not all, the complicated organizational structure and governmental relationships” he said. “A better understanding of our Agreements and trying to be an advocate for more efficient administration is of great interest to me, after all, I’m a resident tax payer as well.”

Smith said the RRREMD board manages “what I have long considered the primary gateway to the Greater Sedona Market.” He said he wants the road to make a “consistently great” first impression.

What makes him the best candidate for the board, he said, is “my willingness to serve our treasured community and a passion for looking for best practices to improve upon what many before have set in place. Over time, we need to continue to challenge ourselves and ask if we can do better, if so, how? I’ve found that complacency will ultimately lead to less than acceptable results. As such, it’s been my goal to work with my fellow board members to constructively move RRREMD forward to achieve even better performance on behalf of our community.

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