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Knowing how difficult it can be for the homeless to get around, Sedona-based bicycling advocate and bicycle tour guide Heather Parris donated seven bikes to Angie’s House, a Cottonwood-based nonprofit that provides transitional housing for those impacted by homelessness, addiction and mental illness.

On Jan. 18, Parris met with Angie’s House founder Angela Lonzano, delivering five immediately rideable bikes and two that needed minor repairs. In addition, she handed over parts and bike helmets donated by a bicycling and gear shop in Cottonwood and mountain bike business in Sedona.

In addition to finding an interim replacement for dismissed Mingus Union High School District Interim Superintendent Eric Harmon, the MUHSD Governing Board has narrowed its list of permanent superintendent candidates down to four.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, Jack Keegan will become the interim superintendent for MUSHD through Friday, June 30, operating in a transitional role between the outgoing Harmon and the incoming superintendent.

Most days, recently hired sports reporter Daniel Hargis wears a shirt with some kind of water polo insignia on it — proof that the 24-year-old Southern California native spent much of his adulthood in the pool.

Hargis, who has been reporting for the Larson Newspapers since December, has been a sports lover as long as he can remember. Nonetheless, he said that he had “never felt good at any of them” until he began playing water polo in high school.

A crime spree over the weekend of Jan. 15 and 16 resulted in thousands of dollars of damage and the arrest of five juvenile suspects.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, six juveniles made their way by automobile through the Cottonwood and Clarkdale areas, slashing the tires of at least 28 vehicles — the majority in Clarkdale — and engaging in various other activities, including burglary at Verde Lea Market.

By accepting the position of photographer for the Cottonwood Journal Extra, Mississippi born and raised Hunt Mercier fulfilled a lifelong pact with himself.

“I promised myself, one day I will end up where there are mountains, but I never thought I’d get to uphold that promise,” Mercier said, adding that prior to his application to the EXTRA he had no knowledge of the Verde Valley. “I had no idea. I looked it up and thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is beautiful.’”

According to Chief Steve Gesell, Cottonwood Police Department is experiencing a major need for recruits — a situation, Gesell clarified, that is not singular to Cottonwood.Cottonwood police chief Steve Gesell stands in front of the Law Enforcement Heroes Statue at the Cottonwood police station. The department is emphasizing the quality of life here in trying to recruit officers.

The reason for the increased demand for personnel, Gesell said, is threefold:

  • An improving economy that discourages application to police departments due to other available jobs.
  • Continuing Great Recession cuts that have reduced police department budgets.
  • National anti-police rhetoric.

“It’s actually very concerning,” Gesell said of the situation, adding that the applicant pool was “shallow before this even happened.” According to Gesell, the factors outlined have made drawing from the applicant pool even more challenging.

The Southwestern Winery is on Yavapai Campus, where manager Philip Brown and his students have won a gold medal for Best Sauvignon Blanc at the Arizona Republic’s Arizona Grand Wine Festival in Phoenix.

Philip Brown, manager of the Yavapai College Southwest Wine Center tasting room, refuses to take an ounce of credit for student successes — including a gold medal for Best Sauvignon Blanc at the Arizona Republic’s Arizona Grand Wine Festival in Phoenix on Jan. 6.

“It has nothing to do with me .... It’s all the students,” Brown said, adding that a major appeal of the college’s viticulture and enology programs is the emphasis on student achievement.

Less than a month into his term as mayor, Timothy Elinski is talking major goals — achieving transparency in city governance and educating the public about the budget.

“My position is, we work for the public, so it should be more accessible,” Elinski said. “Accountability is going to be huge for me .... I’ll hold staff accountable and allow myself to be accountable. That’s the point. Without accountability, we’re not setting any benchmarks.”

Cottonwood Mayor Timothy Elinski said that he intends to open the decision-making process up to the public, including increasing access to boards and commissions. According to Elinski, some public trust has been lost in the management of the city, requiring more transparency and engagement.
Elinski added that it’s too early to gauge how much civic engagement — a key point of his campaign — has been achieved, but the number of people who have signed up for his newly established email newsletter has encouraged him. Beginning in March, Elinski hopes to leverage the engagement in a frank discussion about how the city spends the public’s money.

“It’s the most important thing we do, spending your money,” Elinski said. “I think, in the same way we’re all familiar with our own finances, that we know our city’s budget .... I will do a more open, informative and educational budget process.”

According to Elinski, trust in the city’s management has eroded — a claim he said was highlighted during his bid for mayor.

“Transparency is the key to building trust in the community,” Elinski said. “[The lack of trust] was very apparent on the campaign trail .... Concern about the budget, upper management and what we’re getting out of it — the return on our investment — were major concerns.”

Elinski praised the city for offering a “tremendous amount of services,” including excellent public transportation and recreation facilities. At the same time, he said that Cottonwood “could always do better.”

Expressing concern about the repercussions of an expected influx of Baby Boomer retirees over the course of the next two decades, Elinski said, “To solely base your economy on retirement growth is not going to move our economy in a sustainable direction.”

Elinski has an answer, in theory, for the effects of a population that encourages support service jobs but little else: Making use of resources that already exist in Cottonwood to attract entrepreneurs.

“We have all the elements in place,” Elinski said, listing year-round good weather, ecotourism resources, historic districts, an airport, ample room to grow and agricultural industries among Cottonwood’s selling points. “We just have to leverage [those elements].”

According to Elinski, properly promoting Cottonwood — and the Verde Valley as a whole — will require more consistent marketing efforts from stakeholders and an overall increase in communication between governments and agencies that promote economic development.

The element that Cottonwood still lacks to truly succeed as a hub for entrepreneurial activity, Elinski noted, is post-secondary opportunity.

“Education is the biggest driver of any economy.”

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