Pace: An inside of look at Paradise Valley Town Council

What is it like serving on the Paradise Valley Town Council?

Julie Pace

Many words and experiences come to mind. I will place the matter into perspective by first explaining the scope of the position, followed by an ‘inside baseball” look at the internal dynamics of service on the council with six colleagues.

It is an elected, 100 percent volunteer position that requires lots of time, work, reading, listening, communicating, research, judgment, intelligence, collaboration and compromise. It is fast-paced and ever-changing. To do the job well and not just go through the motions, requires a lot of time away from a career and family.

The council members draw our motivation to do this by the realization that our service does make a difference, and from the inspiration that we receive from each other, from the support of residents, and from the contributions of so many volunteers who serve the town.

Issues include public safety, traffic, street improvements and maintenance, budgeting and administration, proposals in the Arizona Legislature that could adversely impact the town, development proposals that could disturb neighbors, undermine town values and forever change the landscape, potential changes to the town code, dealing with abuses of residences for repeat weddings, party rentals, a llama farm and the misuse of town rights-of-way, pop-up businesses, debris and homelessness.

We try to keep active in the community to stay close and listen to the people on what they desire to be able to balance discussions in a synergistic manner among Town Council members. The decades of experience that the majority of us have working in the municipal environment has really helped make the difference.

And, all this occurs with six out of seven council members being actively employed in real paying active jobs, so we all learn to juggle our time and selflessly help each other with the many obligations to represent the town we love. The most unrewarding part is that icky feeling when you go to sleep at night of not being able to return every call and email because of time constraints.

What is our town staff like today?

We are all proud that we have such high-quality department heads and their teams working diligently and brilliantly to address and solve issues. Many projects and infrastructure were put on hold during the Great Recession, so there is lots to do to catch up and we, of course, are a town with no property tax so it takes special people to roll up their sleeves and identify efficient and effective solutions for our very unique town.

Our interim town manager Brian Dalke is a solid, experienced leader who has helped our entire Paradise Valley staff blossom as we are on the right track for 2019!

Our town is on track financially to pay down the pension fund and continue using financial resources wisely while staying on a fiscally conservative course. And, we are so lucky to have a superb all volunteer judiciary, which is an unbelievable cost savings to the town.

We have residents with significant sewer fee disputes with Phoenix to address, and EPCOR silently snuck a proposal to significantly increase water rates to town residents, which could adversely impact open space and the landscaping that is a crown jewel for our residents, resorts and visitors, especially since the town and its residents made the deliberate choice decades ago to underground virtually all telephones and utility lines so people can enjoy the vistas and mountains.

What is it like serving with my peers?

I can honestly say that today we have one of the best make-up of Town Council members to serve our community. We are not all “yes” people or defer solely to staff recommendations — even though we are so fortunate as a town to have some of the best staff leadership in decades.

As a council team we dig deeper into issues and evaluate the short-term and long-term consequences. Some of us are more passionate and expressive in our views, and some are quieter and articulate in their approaches, but it all works successfully together in the final decision and path forward and for that i am very grateful and proud to serve with my peers.

I really value our free-form discussions as this is transparent political decision-making at its best. Town meetings are live streamed and on video so residents can catch up on the town’s website while they work out at the gym. I look around at the acrimony today in many political environments, local or national, and consider the motivating reasons some people attain election and it can dissuade a person from serving in an elected position.

I know when I was deciding to run for election I just wanted to do good and right in the community in which we live and focus my efforts on preserving hillsides, ensuring safety, supporting our fabulous concierge police department, and continuing our town’s quality of life.

But many who seek elected positions are focused on sound bites, photo opportunities, and using an elected position as a stepping stone to other political aspirations. Those are the folks generally to keep out of our town council.

What are the traits of my peers?

Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner is awesome. He is smart, humble, prepared, thoughtful, collaborates, and strives to build consensus and if any disputes or issues arise among council members or for our town.

He is a solid leader who will serve our town well. He is singularly focused on what is in the best interests of the town, no matter what.

Paul Dembow is quick with his financial and entrepreneurial acumen and conservative approach to solving problems and handling monies. Paul asks challenging questions and makes one think and I have greatly enjoyed our debates. Paul’s heart is in the right place to get the best decision for the town and he will listen and compromise positions if persuaded by the debate and input of his peers and staff.

Paul’s repeat phrase is “all of us are smarter than one of us.”

Mark Stanton is committed to the town and brings a balance of expertise in tourism and chamber perspectives, as well as long-term relationships within our town that really helps the dialogue. Mark bridges and helps make us aware of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley considerations to achieve good decisions. Mark is well-connected in circles that help our town, especially during the legislative session. Mark is especially supportive of staff and reminds us regularly the important role that staff plays in helping all of us achieve town goals.

Scott Moore is such a great guy.

He has depth in development, zoning and really adds value in so many ways. Scott focuses on the town code and he actually reads every provision to collaborate with our very experienced Town Attorney Andrew Miller so we get it right and make sure we update and revise the code where ambiguities or misunderstandings can occur.

Scott regularly states that we cannot rely on past history and practice, lets get it in writing in the code so it is fair and everyone knows the rules. And fun facts about scott are: He loves yoga, is a vegetarian, plays the drums, loves the phoenix symphony, has a cool Trans-Am, celebrates animals, and he likes peace and life.

A gentle soul when you get to know him.

In 2019, we say good bye to the council service of our gentleman ambassador David Sherf. We will miss his excellent depth in resort expertise, but we know he is always one phone call away.

We also say goodbye to our former Mayor Michal Collins who will always be a town mayor and who cares so deeply about our town. Once a mayor always a mayor in our town. As Michael says, leading the council means you keep your hands on the reins and the gas pedal is in full-throttle position.

In January 2019, we welcome new council members Ellen Andeen and newcomer to municipal government, Anna Thomasson.

Ellen is a rock star.

Her family has been active in the town since the 1960s and her uncle named Mummy Mountain, where she has lived since she was born. She rode her horse to make bank deposits at Town Hall when she was a youth. Her professional expertise is finance; she thinks in numbers.

Ellen has devoted years to public service including serving as a Paradise Valley police volunteer and also serves as treasurer on the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

Anna is passionate, wants to be a community advocate, is retired, loves dogs, and wants to give back and start her public municipal service here in our town.

She is very excited to serve and to learn and build experience about zoning and municipal government. She has good mentors among council members who have decades of service who will be happy to assist her. She was a consultant working throughout the country for companies so she will bring that expertise to shaping her role and impact as a new council member.

I am excited for 2019 to start in Paradise Valley.

The new year brings opportunities for new successes, experiences, and creative thinking to improvise, adapt, and overcome challenges. Please consider volunteering for positions on town committees as the application process is now open. Also consider serving as a paradise valley police volunteer.

Giving back and providing service is contagious!

Editor’s note: Ms. Pace is a member of Paradise Valley Town Council

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