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.”
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.”