Last week, the Marana Town Council unanimously chose Jamsheed Mehta as the new town manager. The council previously chose Meta to serve as interim manager, in October, when then-Manager Gilbert Davidson was preparing to head to a new position in Gov. Doug Ducey’s office as chief operating officer.
Mehta said with the economy doing well and following Davidson’s lasting endeavors, it’s a great time to assume the role of town manager.
“This council has benefited from the leadership of Mr. Davidson in the past, and Marana is in a great place due to your direction,” he said. “We have a tremendous group of very talented, very dedicated staff, and I am proud to represent them as we go forward.”
Mehta’s contract is an initial one-year term with an option to extend it, with a salary of $188,000 and benefits.
Mehta served as deputy town manager from 2014 until being appointed interim manager. He previously served as interim assistant city manager for Glendale, Arizona. He has degrees in civil engineering and urban planning from the University of Kansas.
Other council news
The Marana Citizens’ Forum holds two sessions per year, comprised of community partners, council appointees and local residents who deliberate and come up with recommendations to better the town. Community partners include representatives from the Marana Chamber of Commerce, Marana Health Center, Marana Unified School District and Northwest Fire.
Council chooses three or four topics and the forum picks one to focus on over seven meetings, culminating in a presentation to the council.
The council’s first choice last week was “Parks & Recreation Healthy Community.” If delegates chose this option, they would explore ideas to expand and maintain local trail systems, and brainstorm ways to encourage people to get active and enjoy the trails and outdoor activity programs the town offers.
Another choice was “Civic Engagement in Volunteerism, Neighborhood Meetings, Public Forums.” Delegates would look at ways to increase attendance at town functions, as well as community engagement among a growing population.
“We’d like to have more citizen input and develop new ideas and new ways that we can keep the sense of community active and fresh,” said Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson, who runs the forum along with Marana Economic Development Specialist Heath Vescovi-Chiordi.
Marana is soon updating its General Plan: a map of zoning, planning and annexation for current and future town development. If the forum choses “Update to the General Plan,” they would come up with ways to elicit more citizen participation, which Bronson said would create a more “community-sensitive plan.”
The last option, “Get Out the Vote” is timely ahead of the 2018 elections. Marana has about 25,000 registered voters in a population of about 47,000. In the 2016 election, only 8,500 ballots were cast, according to Bronson.
“Get Out the Vote” would mean creating an outreach campaign to combat voter apathy and increase turnout.
Since the forum’s inception in 2012, delegates have brought recommendations to council on 12 topics relating to internal government operations’ effect on the public as well as town-wide issues. Over the last five years, 82 delegates have attended one or more sessions. Only four people attended every session, one of whom died in December 2017: delegate Jeff Foss.
One of the successful recommendations the forum made to council was the Public Safety Program, which yielded the awareness series “Focus,” addressing topics that include theft, bullying, holiday safety and driving safety.
Vescovi-Chiordi’s favorite town-wide project was the Public Art Policy, which the forum brought to council in November 2017. They recommended that Marana develop and adopt a public art policy. The town is currently in the process of doing so, going over finance possibilities and comparing to other communities’ public art policies. As well, an ad hoc committee of five delegates worked with the town manager’s office to bring the deer sculptures to Tangerine Sky Community Park.
The next Citizens’ Forum starts on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 5:30, at the Marana Community Center, 13250 N. Lon Adams Road.
Marana rewrote its animal control code when the town took over the services last summer. After working under that code for more than six months, animal control addressed the town council to approve some updates.
There was already a section prohibiting ownership of a “vicious, destructive and biting animals,” Deputy Town Attorney Jane Fairall told the council. The amendment makes it explicit that a town magistrate has the power to “declare an animal vicious and destructive and make any recommendations or orders for the safety of the public.”
The amendment also makes it so Animal Control officers can do an evaluation on an animal they believe to be dangerous. As well, if a new Marana resident has an animal previously declared vicious and destructive, the pet owner needs to let the town know when moving in. Whether an animal is dangerous is determined by their actions; breed is not taken into account.
Fairall said in an interview that they made the amendments because they didn’t want to assume the authority to take actions concerning dangerous animals, without making that authority explicit.
The town also renamed one of its signature events from Marana Cotton Festival to Marana Farm Festival because “farm festival” more accurately describes the town’s history of ranching and farming, along with the agrarian and rodeo heritage.
The festival takes place in the fall and is part of the town’s Signature Event Series, created in January, 2015. Other events in the series include the Star Spangled Spectacular, the Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting and the Marana Founders’ Day, which was added to the series in 2016.