With November comes new leadership in the local political arena, the biggest of which is the new mayor in Cottonwood.
While Sedona drives most of the tourist traffic into the Verde Valley and many residents of other communities benefit from that attraction, Cottonwood is the economic powerhouse of the Verde Valley, and how that city is run shapes the fiscal environment of the rest of the Verde Valley.
Cottonwood’s new mayor is Tim Elinski, who spent 10 years on council before opting to move up and run to replace longtime Mayor Diane Joens.
Under Arizona’s council-manager form of government, the mayor has little power beyond that of a council member. By statute, the mayor only sets the council agenda and leads meetings, but in practice, the mayor sets the tone for the council and by extension, the city as whole.
By his own admission, Elinski is not a politician. He is, however, a practical problem-solver and we hope he brings this to the forefront.
He told us back in April that the biggest issues to face Cottonwood in the years to come is how to stimulate the economy, encourage economic growth while not overstepping the bounds of government and without changing the character of the city.
No city is stagnant and change provides new challenges.
Several housing developments are in the works for Cottonwood, which will add thousands of new residents to the city. The question is how can the city absorb these new residents without straining the city’s water and sewer system, public safety resources and city services? The city will also have to work to help local businesses provide employment and encourage these new residents to open and maintain new businesses to add to city’s tax revenue.
It is also important to not alienate longtime residents of other neighborhoods to make sure everyone gets fair treatment even as the city grows.
Elinski said his proudest accomplishment as a councilman was the establishment of the Historical Preservation Society, which works to keep Cottonwood’s long history alive in the minds of old-timers and new residents. Our history is what gives our communities character and should be embraced to shape our future.
Over the last decade, Cottonwood turned Old Town from a sleepy stretch of road into a vibrant destination with changes to allow live music and community events. These changes shape the personality of Cottonwood that reverberate throughout the city. Other communities can use these changes as a template to build up their own downtowns into active, vibrant hearts generating revenue and a sense of community.
Regional economic development is not a zero-sum game. Elinski and the new council will also have to work closely with the incorporated towns of Clarkdale, Jerome, Camp Verde and Sedona and the unincorporated communities of the region to make sure future changes to our area and the state can be shaped to benefit the most while harming the fewest.
We hope that the residents Cottonwood get more involved in local governance, attending more City Council meetings, community forums and city events.
Just as the mayor is but a voice in a chorus, the council itself is just one part of an active city. It is the residents who will truly shape what a city is and what it can become.