A path forward: Freshman Paradise Valley councilwomen discuss priorities

Newly elected Paradise Valley Town Council members, Ellen Andeen, on left, and Anna Thomasson, on right. (file photos)

Two freshmen Paradise Valley Town Council members will take their seats on Thursday, Jan. 10, and both Ellen Andeen and Anna Thomasson contend they are eager to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the local dais.

In August, Ms. Andeen and Ms. Thomasson were elected to the Paradise Valley Town Council, along with the re-election of councilmember Paul Dembow. Meanwhile, then-Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner ran unopposed for the mayor’s seat.

In a two-part series, the Independent reached out to the Paradise Valley Town Council to gain insights into the top priorities for the 2019 year. This week’s installment features the council’s newcomers.

Both Ms. Andeen and Ms. Thomasson appear eager to begin their rolls on the local governing board, and list finding a new town manager as a top priority. Ms. Andeen says she wants to continue to build the foundation she started as a Paradise Valley Police Department volunteer and see increased community involvement between the two entities. While, Ms. Thomasson seeks a better understanding of the capital improvement projects process and a mitigation to storm water drainage.

Read below to see what the two new councilmembers deem as the town’s most pressing issues for this year:

Ellen Andeen

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

I’d like to take a moment to thank the Town of Paradise Valley for their confidence in my leadership and decision-making. My priorities, when campaigning this past year, were public safety, responsible development, preservation, and fiscal responsibility.

Ellen Andeen

In December, I attended the two-day newly elected officials training given by the Arizona League of Cities & Towns and found that tremendously beneficial. It also was a wonderful networking experience. I also attended an informational session given by Experience Scottsdale to gain a deeper understanding of their role within Paradise Valley and our resorts. I also had the pleasure of meeting almost all our resort GMs — getting to know them and their properties a little better.

In conjunction with PVPD, I attended the first ever meeting with key management of all our churches in town. The purpose was to openly share ideas and best practices with each other in promotion of keeping our houses of worship safe.

I also sat down with current and former council members to gain their perspective and direction, Lastly, I’ve been meeting with each of our department heads at the town to gain a better understanding of their positions.

My career span is in corporate America. Given my finance and accounting background, I’ve been studying the budget. Prior budgets and spending will tell the story of what was important in years past. I’d also like to gain a better understanding of the CIP process and how we tie that to the budget.

I believe there needs to be a better process for prioritizing the order of projects that go before the annual budget reviews and future project reviews. Also important is continued success in paying down our PSPRS pension unfunded liability.

I look forward to providing value in the recruitment process for the new town manager, as well as making sure the transition is efficient and effective. This will be important to our success in 2019.

Thank you to Brian Dalke, interim town manager, for his continued focus and leadership.

Being a Paradise Valley Police volunteer –– I ran on a platform of public safety and look forward to continuing work and advocacy for our police in providing high quality services to ensure the safety of our community. I will be watchful on items in the Arizona legislature that could affect our town.

Additionally, I am hopeful to assume the council liaison role for the ACOPS committee, taking on that role from Council Member Julie Pace.

Under the leadership of Council Member Pace and Chief Wingert, PVPD and ACOPS have made significant moves in the past couple years engaging the community in discussions on public safety.

The formation of the Paradise Valley Public Safety Foundation has been another win and I look forward to offering my experience, given my background as board treasurer, with a similar 501(c)3 with the FBI Phoenix Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the Town of Paradise Valley for 2019?

I am very excited to be part of the transition in town leadership under new Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner. We will have a new vice mayor too and 2019 will be a year of growth amid these leadership changes.

A successful transition in the town manger position will be a priority.

The current sitting council members have set in motion and accomplished changes to solidify policies and procedures for our town’s safety, security and preservation. We will need to continue that momentum. I’d like to see changes to our overall CIP process and especially how those items tie to the budget.

Lastly, I would like to see resolution to our poor cell phone coverage.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think town residents should be aware of in the new year?

Calendar year 2019 will be a transitional year with new leadership at the mayor, vice mayor and town manager positions. I am excited for the opportunities this affords our community.

Anna Thomasson

•As an elected leader, what are some of your top priorities to tackle in 2019?

I’m excited to begin serving our residents. In addition to keeping our focus on public safety, my priorities include:

1. Improve communications with our residents. Although our town does a good job being transparent, we can do more to inform our residents of key issues in a timely way. My dream would be to make Paradise Valley a model of informing residents and gathering timely input for our decision making with advice and help from volunteers at virtually no cost to the town.

Anna Thomasson

2. Develop a detailed plan for managing our storm water runoff. Our fall rains and subsequent flooding showed that we cannot wait to resolve these issues.

3. Positively contribute to the search for and integration of our new town manager and continue to support our new mayor in building positive relationships among our new council. We live in a great town and you deserve the most productive and effective council and staff possible.

•What would you like to see accomplished for the Town of Paradise Valley for 2019?

Manage development:

We need to thoughtfully manage the three major special use permits along Lincoln between Scottsdalr and Mockingbird roads. The proposed heights, density and significant increase in traffic will be a big change to our town and we need to balance multiple priorities to get it right.
Mitigate stormwater damage:

It is time to make our storm water management a higher priority. It is undoubtedly a complex issue, but unfortunately, when our 100-year flood events seem to come every other year, we need to find ways to mitigate residential and street flooding.

Communicate better:

I would like to see us communicate more with our residents. Whether through a committee, study group, or simply a focus on improvement, I would like to work with the mayor and council to advance the quality, relevance and timeliness of our communications and find ways to make sure all voices are heard early in our decision-making process.

•What is the No. 1 issue you think town residents should be aware of in the new year?

The East Lincoln Drive Development Area between Scottsdale and Mockingbird roads is part of the 2012 voter-approved General Plan (Section 2.5). This entry to our town is about to change dramatically:

  • The Lincoln Medical Center SUP: Planning Commission has sent to Council a recommendation to approve a new, modern medical office building that houses a retail pharmacy, outpatient surgery center and urgent care facility. A Council work study session on this SUP is tentatively planned for the Thursday, Jan. 24 Council meeting.
  • The Smoketree Resort SUP sits on 5.4 acres and is still being reviewed by the Planning Commission. The current application asks for a 3-story building up to 44’ high with 180 planned hotel rooms and rental units contributing to 34 percent lot coverage. Another Planning Commission meeting to review the SUP will be held in January.
  • Medians, sidewalks and a new traffic signal at Quail Run will be installed between Scottsdale and Mockingbird roads.

Please consider attending a Planning Commission or Town Council meeting to learn more and make your voice heard. The published agendas specify whether public comment will be heard and, except for the rare Executive Session, you are always welcome to attend any meeting. It’s quick and easy. Our Town Hall (6401 E. Lincoln) is rarely more than a 10 minute drive from your home.

Stay in the know. Our town website (paradisevalleyaz.gov) has links to agendas and videos of the Planning Commission and Town Council meetings, as well as all the SUP proposals, drawings and other documents to keep you fully informed. At the town website, go to: GOVERNMENT at the top, then click on “Agendas, Meetings, and Videos” in the upper left corner. I hope to see you at a council meeting.

News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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