October 11, 2006 - The silver-haired Dove Mountain resident strolled in a couple minutes late and took a seat in the back of the class.

As customary, Marana Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson drew attention to the latecomer.

"Everybody say, 'Hi Steve,'" she told those gathered.

Steve Thesman on Oct. 5 attended his first Marana Citizen Education and Resource Workshop and left with a pocket knife.

When Marana Building Official Jack Holden asked what caused houses to fall down, Thesman answered correctly.


Holden tossed the gold-colored knife to Thesman, who continued to shout answers from the second to last row of an upstairs conference room in the Marana Municipal Complex.

"I wanted to come in here and learn more," he said. "If I run for public office, this would be a great tool."

Thesman continues to consider a run for governor. The retired manufacturer came to Marana from Yorba Linda, Calif., almost three years ago. His neighbor, Marana Town Councilwoman Carol McGorray, suggested he sign up for CREW.

"I like this small town," Thesman said. "Because this small town appears to be a very sophisticated small town with very knowledgable and competent people."

Almost 30 Marana citizens signed up for the town's fifth citizen workshop. Last year, 16 signed up but each session only drew about a dozen.

By the end of this month, this year's participants will have had a peak at every town department, from police to planning. They also will have heard presentations from community organizations such as the chamber of commerce and Northwest Fire District.

"We've been here for 30 years," said Maryann Casoni, a retired teacher in the Marana Unified School District. "We were here when we had a post office, a bar and three schools. We're not in Kansas anymore," she said of the town's changes and growth.

Casoni and her husband Larry, also a retired teacher, asked the most questions during the Oct. 5 session.

Maryann Casoni wanted to know why the completion of the Twin Peaks interchange has been delayed until 2009.

"I wish I could give you a nice, tidy answer," Assistant Town Manager Jim DeGrood said.

"So do I," the Continental Reserve resident responded.

DeGrood went through a slideshow presentation, explaining how the town funds road improvements. Impact fees have given the town millions of dollars more for road projects, though officials still face a significant shortfall, DeGrood explained. The town hopes to make up the shortfall with future impact fees.

The assistant manger told the CREW participants that the Regional Transportation Authority will bring some sort of bus service to the town, which has no transit service, aside from a bus that travels Ina Road.

The town will get a circulator bus, most likely, DeGrood said.

"Stay tuned," he said.

Marana Regional Airport Director Charlie Mangum began his presentation with a computer-simulated landing at the Avra Valley Road airport. He gave some background information on the town's 570-acre airport, for which he has won more than $70 million dollars in federal and state grants.

Made up mostly of citizens older than 50, the CREW crowd shouted responses to Mangum's questions.

"Who uses a general aviation airport?"

Crop dusters, helicopters, firefighters, news channels, recreational pilots, they responded.

"How many airports are there in the U.S.?"

After several guesses, Mangun told them - 18,345, of which only 30 are commercial airports.

Mangum outlined the airport's plan to expand. He mentioned the town's intention to bid on state land surrounding it and build a steakhouse and new terminal.

"We want to make the airport the job base for the town," he said.

He finished with this quote: "Build a mile of highway and we can go one mile. Build a mile of runway and we can go anywhere."

Finally, Holden took over with his dry wit, joking with one woman who wondered why the lights in her house dim whenever she runs her vacuum cleaner.

"You must have a big vacuum," Holden said.

A resident of the retirement community Sunflower in Continental Ranch asked if any additional requirements came into play for builders with projects in areas for senior citizens.

"Yeah, we make the workers wear shirts," Holden said with a straight face.

Jokes aside, Holden has a crew of eight inspectors responsible for enforcing thousands of pages of code. He showed pictures of code violations, including one he called "Just plain dumb." It depicted electrical wires hanging in the direct path of a door.

Each of the three presenters received applause from the class. On Oct. 26, the CREW class of 2006 will graduate. On Oct. 10, many of them, along with CREW graduates past, took part in a town hall visit from Gov. Janet Napolitano.

This year's CREW group seems overly enthusiastic, even stretching a recent presentation by Planning Director Barbara Berlin to more than an hour, though only slated for 20 minutes.

"We have a lot of good people here who want to learn about what we do," DeGrood said.

Officials began the program in 2003 to attract volunteers and people interested in serving on town commissions. So far, two of this year's participants have applied to serve on the recently-created business and economic development committee and the parks and recreation committee.

Only one of this year's participants has gone through the workshops before. Harry Christman, though in his mid-80s, also attends just about every town council meeting.

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