Last Friday in Florida, Marana did not win All-America City recognition from the National Civic League. There were 16 finalists, and Marana was not among the chosen 10.
That’s too bad, and Marana should try again for such national recognition.
In truth, Marana is an All-America City, in every respect. It is growing, quickly. It is building infrastructure for the future. It is attempting to become a complete community, and there is a vision for spring training baseball, maybe an art museum, significant retail development and bolstered economic vitality. Marana is on the move, and the envy of many American communities.
There’s another way Marana is an All-America city. It’s this — leadership is criticized, and, inevitably, leadership changes.
Marana schools are about to get a new superintendent. The Marana Unified School District has chosen two finalists, and it’s likely one of them is going to get the job of leading the institutions that educate the community’s children. Superintendent Dennis Dearden, at the helm since 2005, has been lauded for his work. But he’s moving on, as educators rapidly do. Someone will take his place.
There’s been change in Marana Police Department leadership. While the community feels safe and protected, disgruntlement within the department contributed to the naming of a new, interim boss, Terry Tometich.
Now, three members of the Marana Town Council want to vote on whether Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat should stay, or go, a full year before his contract runs out. Reuwsaat has “led the town in a great direction,” Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler said, “but sometimes it’s a time to go, it’s a time to change.”
“This would be a good time to make a change,” agreed Councilman Russell Clanagan, a leader of the call.
Reuwsaat has been town manager in Marana since 2003, and a whole lot has happened under his watch. Marana has expanded, built its new municipal complex, recruited retail projects, added subdivisions, pulled in a major resort development, constructed new roads …. on it goes, and on it will go.
Reuwsaat can testify that the only thing harder than managing growth is managing recession. Further, he knows all is not perfect. The police department turmoil caused him headaches. Marana’s contest with Pima County over wastewater treatment has taken unusual turns, and is now in court. Then there’s the “inside baseball” of governance, and specifically the relationships between and among the appointed, and the elected. We’re not privy to any of it. We know it’s a factor in any suggestion that Reuwsaat be removed.
We’re not here to judge Mike Reuwsaat and his performance. That’s the job of the elected, people who come and go, people who have different ideas about how things should be done. “I work at the discretion of the mayor and council,” Reuwsaat said, and he’s exactly correct. City managers and school superintendents are forever subject to shifts in the political wind. They can be in good graces one minute, gone the next. That’s why they have unique contracts with year-ahead terminations, and with six-month buyouts and assurances of health insurance and other benefits. If Mike Reuwsaat is asked to leave, he’ll be just fine.
If Reuwsaat leaves, Marana will be fine, too. Someone else will become town manager, apply his or her management style and direction, take cues from the elected, and move Marana forward as an All-America City … until opposition accumulates, and it’s time for another change. Such is life in public service.