Rapid growth and Marana are becoming synonymous terms making the town's Development Services Center one of its most important departments.

That important department, though, was without a permanent leader for several months until former Pima County Planning Official Jim Mazzocco took over as administrator July 12. In an interview July 27, Mazzocco said he's just beginning to grasp the many aspects of his demanding job.

"Right now I don't have any particular set plan that I am about to embark on," Mazzocco said. "At the stage we're in right now, I'm just trying to absorb information and learn and form new relationships. I think it's very important that be done before we set off in any kind of direction."

When Mike Reuwsaat took over as town manager following the departure of Mike Hein, the former Department Services Administrator Jim DeGrood became the executive assistant to the town manager. Jaret Barr filled DeGrood's position as an interim administrator while the town conducted a search for a new administrator. Mazzocco applied for the position and went from being the top Planning and Zoning official for all of Pima County to the development services administrator for Marana. In moving from the county to the town Mazzocco's salary went from $80,000 to $94,000.

He said he hopes to use his experience with the county to improve coding policy in Marana, foster communication between different departments in the town government and provide a quality working environment for the employees of development services.

While Mazzocco emphasized he's still learning about the multitude of projects that come with leading the department, he said he has developed a broad vision for the department.

"Part of it is to be constantly striving to improve how we do business," he said. "To be responsible with how we spend money - the town's money - that we're also responsible toward our employees, and making sure they're well trained and that they have opportunities for advancement in their own careers. Those are some of the areas that I think are important to look at."

While some might see it as a step backward for a public official to go from a high-level position in the county to an administrator in the town of Marana, Mazzocco counters by saying his current position includes a broader range of tasks.

"I was interested in a new challenge and this position has a larger palate of issues to deal with," Mazzocco said. "I dealt with planning and zoning - current and long range planning issues - in the county and I enjoyed it. I didn't have a problem with anybody at the county, and this was just a new opportunity to be dealing with a growing community that has exciting opportunities."

In his third week, he said he had begun to get a handle on some of the important issues facing development services. He attended meetings and talked to staff, mostly listening and taking notes, but soon he would actively participate in proposing solutions, he said.

"Every day I come in here I gain more knowledge," he said. "Every day I learn more about the people working here, I learn about some of the things that work very well, and I'm learning about some of the things that don't work very well."

He said that people on staff are conscientious, hard working and provide good customer service.

He added that some areas in the department need improvement. He said Marana's development code has some problems in clarity, organization and interpretation. He also said the town council wants development services to reexamine Marana's residential design standards. But he won't work alone in addressing these problems.

"It's not going to just be me," he said. "It's going to be a team effort as to how we sort out and improve these processes within the organization."

Marana's Human Resources Director Jane Howell said the town selected Mazzocco from a handful of candidates because of his high level position within Pima County's Planning and Zoning department.

"He had the management skills and experience we were looking at," she said.

DeGrood said Marana will benefit from having someone with so much experience in planning.

Mazzocco spent 11 of his 22 years working for the county as the Planning Official where he had a chance to weigh-in on some controversial topics. One of these was the updating the county's hillside development standards that determine the amount property owners can build on peaks and ridges in the Tucson Mountains. The county reached a solution where some peaks were redesignated as protected and in other areas the county used a viewshed mitigation strategy, which allowed development with considerations of light reflectivity, environmental vegetation and the color of paint used on buildings.

"I think in the end there probably were a lot people who were disappointed, but there were a lot of people who felt that the decision the Board of Supervisors came to was fair and that was pretty much what we recommended to them," he said.

While at the county he also worked on creating transitions between commercial and residential developments. For example he compared the parking lot northeast of Ina and Thornydale, which has very few trees, to the parking lot southwest of Ina and La Cholla that has several trees. He said the county added more trees to newer developments to reduce the heat effect from the asphalt.

Mazzocco even brings a little bit of global experience to the development services center. He spent four years in Micronesia and Thailand working for the Peace Corps, and taught English in Japan before coming to the University of Arizona and receiving a master's degree in urban planning.

His experience at the county and his worldwide travels can add to his service for Marana, he said.

"I think they all add up in some fashion to who you are," he said. "And we'll see if I can be of help to the town in its growth, and I'm hoping I can and I'm confident I can help."

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