With the Town of Marana celebrating its 40th Anniversary, it was only fitting that the State of the Town speech celebrated the town’s rich history.
Mayor Ed Honea reminded attendees at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain on Friday, April 14, that he has lived in the area before it became a town and was part of the effort to get signatures to incorporate back in 1977.
“It seems,like just yesterday, when a group of community members walked through the neighborhoods, in North Marana to obtain signatures for incorporation,” Honea said. “To get these signatures, we walked from house to house … talking to residents about providing services and protecting our own community. I am happy to report, 40 years later, we have never stopped talking about providing services and protecting this community.”
Although Honea has been actively involved with the town for most of those 40 years, serving on the town council and as mayor, he shared the stage with four other town employees who each touched on the past and future of the town. Marana may be best known for its agrarian roots, of late the town has tried to be at the forefront of development and providing innovative ways to attract and retain businesses and residents.
Marana’s Director of Human Resources Curry Hale has only been a town employee since 2015, but it did not tale long for the town’s “culture of excellence” to make an impact.
“Providing outstanding service is our core mission here at the town,” Hale said. “Everything we do must directly serve our larger community. Our vision ensures that even though we may not always agree, everyone always pushes in the same direction. In Marana, we believe you don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree.”
Hale explained that a few years ago they began asking town employees questions about why they chose to work in local government and what inspires them at work. Those questions were posed to everyone from police officers to building inspectors to maintenance crews and the recurring themes were “dedicated service, respect, teamwork, and engaged innovation.”
Hale then pointed out the creation of the Community Clean-Up Program, which provides a free trailer to community groups who want to clean up neighborhoods. The trailer provides a way to dispose of large and bulky debris which they noticed had begun to collect in many of the older neighborhoods.
“By offering this service, the town is helping residents take pride in their own neighborhoods, put in a little sweat equity, and in the end, enjoy the product of a collaborative effort,” Hale said.
Respect within the town staff and between the town and public was also part of Hale’s message. The 4th of July Star Spangled Spectacular and the efforts in trying to aid businesses during construction on the Ina Corridor were examples given by Hale.
Next up was town magistrate Laine Sklar, who touched on the town trying to foster strong community connections.
“Working together, our values of dedicated service, respect, teamwork, and engaged innovation help create community connections that hold Marana together,” said Sklar, who has worked for the town since 2006.
She discussed the town’s commitment to trails and the natural environment, but also the town’s commitment to bringing various communities together. Marana is spread out with some distinct sections, yet the town has looked at ways to bring those from the different parts of town together to create “a coherent sense of unity.”
One example was the Marana Citizen’s Forum, which allows residents to have a say in how the town is run and governed.
“This group was born when we moved away from traditional, and often ineffective, citizen commissions that worked on isolated issues without finding broad solutions,” Sklar said. “Instead, we wanted to convene a collaborative group of citizens who would represent all interests in our community. There are citizens from every profession and all walks of life represented in this group. Twice a year, we convene them for several months to dig deep into a major question facing our town.”
The citizen’s forum helped streamline Marana’s Development Services Center and has given the town council some real concrete ideas on moving into the future in terms of embracing technology and looking at development of the downtown area.
Police Chief Terry Rozema, who is out in the community as much as any town employee, spoke about the “attitude and spirit” of the town’s residents. His example was in how the Marana Police Department changed its philosophy in writing traffic tickets and the town residents responded in a positive fashion. Upon becoming chief in 2011, Rozema encouraged his officers to make more stops, but write less tickets. Citations issued went from over 12,000 the year before he took the job to just 3,300 last year, but traffic collisions have actually reduced.
“Almost overnight, traffic stops went from being a burdensome obligation for officers and citizens of course, into an opportunity to build relationships and educate our community,” Rozema said, explaining that having a respectful conversation with people, rather than making them open their pocket book, has made a big impact on the town’s drivers.
“While that might not happen everywhere, it has happened here in Marana,” Rozema said.
Marana director of Marana Parks and Recreation Cynthia Nemeth-Briehn was the final town employee to speak, and she touched on the town’s strategy to build towards the future, but how actions taken in the past shaped what they will do moving forward.
“For 40 years, entrepreneurs and farmers, doctors and lawyers, parents and children have worked hard to make Marana what it is today,” Nemeth-Briehn said. “Throughout our history, we’ve benefitted from the collective vision of countless leaders who aspired for an ever stronger, an ever greater Marana.”
She noted that the annexation of the Ina/Thornydale area 20 years ago has made projects today possible thanks to the funds collected through sales tax in the area. She noted that the town has been hard at work updating their strategic plan, which serves as the roadmap for upcoming development and decisions.
Nemeth-Briehn went over some of the big projects, including the new wastewater treatment and recharge plants in North Marana and how their construction will lead to further development and expansion in the area.
Honea closed out the speech with one eye on the past and one eye on the future.
“We have accomplished a lot in 40 years,” Honea said. “I promise you the next 40 are going to be great as well.”