Most of us played "Telephone" or the "Grapevine" in our youth, where one person  whispers a story in the ear of the person next to them and it goes around the circle, ending up something very different than the original tale. It was often humorous and a fun game — when we were kids.

It is fascinating when such tales get started in our own Town and become part of the community conversation, often wandering far from the beginning of what was originally said or done. Recently the Town staff found themselves caught up in a tale that took on a life all its own, spread by rumor and speculation with no real facts of support. Rather than leave any doubt in the public's mind, I believe it is important enough to tell the real story behind the fable.

In October, upon receiving comments from a member of the public with respect to Halloween decorations, I sent an e-mail to all employees reminding them of respectful guidelines necessary when placing decorations in public lobby areas on campus. In that memo, employees were encouraged to decorate for all holidays and special occasions, including the display of our standard Christmas and Adopt-A-Family trees.

The Town has always celebrated the holidays in the month of December by decorating our Town campus, and this year was not expected to be any different.

When outside lights and our usual holiday wreath did not appear at Town Hall this year, a game of "Telephone" began, and conclusions were drawn that blended the earlier October e-mail discussion with an assumption of lack of holiday spirit.

The real story is, in fact, much less dramatic. With the holiday celebration moved to Steam Pump Ranch this year and extended over two days, the bulk of our holiday decorating budget was used for those events. While Town staff sought to find additional funds to also decorate Town Hall, the fact that there were no December meetings scheduled in council chambers — coupled with a lack of additional funding — led to a decision to limit decorations this year.

Had staff realized the impact of not having decorations at Town Hall, and the disappointment from our residents, a different option would have been pursued.

Rather than draw unsupported conclusions and speculate on actions taken at the Town, I would invite any and all residents who have a concern to contact me personally, to discuss any issues with respect to the Town. We value all of our community celebrations and will work in the future to ensure our residents have every opportunity to enjoy the spirit of the holidays.


Jerene Watson is the interim town manager for Oro Valley. She may be reached at

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