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Never let it be said that Mountain View Preparatory is a dull school.McDonald’s employee Genica Collumbo, Mountain View Preparatory fifth-grade teacher Brenda Stokes and MVP Principal Stephanie Jones serve customers at the McTeacher’s Night fundraising event Friday, Jan. 6. The event raised approximately $1,500. Nearly $500 was in cookie sales.

Last week, students were greeted back to school after Christmas break by running a cheerful gauntlet of teachers and staff. To close out the week, students earned the right to see their teachers — and possibly their principal — get pied in the face.

Less than a month into his term as mayor, Timothy Elinski is talking major goals — achieving transparency in city governance and educating the public about the budget.

“My position is, we work for the public, so it should be more accessible,” Elinski said. “Accountability is going to be huge for me .... I’ll hold staff accountable and allow myself to be accountable. That’s the point. Without accountability, we’re not setting any benchmarks.”

Cottonwood Mayor Timothy Elinski said that he intends to open the decision-making process up to the public, including increasing access to boards and commissions. According to Elinski, some public trust has been lost in the management of the city, requiring more transparency and engagement.
Elinski added that it’s too early to gauge how much civic engagement — a key point of his campaign — has been achieved, but the number of people who have signed up for his newly established email newsletter has encouraged him. Beginning in March, Elinski hopes to leverage the engagement in a frank discussion about how the city spends the public’s money.

“It’s the most important thing we do, spending your money,” Elinski said. “I think, in the same way we’re all familiar with our own finances, that we know our city’s budget .... I will do a more open, informative and educational budget process.”

According to Elinski, trust in the city’s management has eroded — a claim he said was highlighted during his bid for mayor.

“Transparency is the key to building trust in the community,” Elinski said. “[The lack of trust] was very apparent on the campaign trail .... Concern about the budget, upper management and what we’re getting out of it — the return on our investment — were major concerns.”

Elinski praised the city for offering a “tremendous amount of services,” including excellent public transportation and recreation facilities. At the same time, he said that Cottonwood “could always do better.”

Expressing concern about the repercussions of an expected influx of Baby Boomer retirees over the course of the next two decades, Elinski said, “To solely base your economy on retirement growth is not going to move our economy in a sustainable direction.”

Elinski has an answer, in theory, for the effects of a population that encourages support service jobs but little else: Making use of resources that already exist in Cottonwood to attract entrepreneurs.

“We have all the elements in place,” Elinski said, listing year-round good weather, ecotourism resources, historic districts, an airport, ample room to grow and agricultural industries among Cottonwood’s selling points. “We just have to leverage [those elements].”

According to Elinski, properly promoting Cottonwood — and the Verde Valley as a whole — will require more consistent marketing efforts from stakeholders and an overall increase in communication between governments and agencies that promote economic development.

The element that Cottonwood still lacks to truly succeed as a hub for entrepreneurial activity, Elinski noted, is post-secondary opportunity.

“Education is the biggest driver of any economy.”

According to Susan Culp, a contractor for American Rivers in the Verde Valley, the Town of Camp Verde has a likely chance of earning a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area international designation.Residents of Rainbow Acres, known as ranchers, pose together in the on-property barn. The 50-acre Rainbow Acres facility houses over 90 developmentally disabled adults.

Surveys of avian populations along the Verde River — one of the state’s last perennial and free-flowing waterways — is required as part of the IBA application process and will begin this month. Additional surveys will be conducted throughout the year, occurring seasonally to coincide with the arrival of spring migrants, summer nesting behavior and fall migrations. Full-year resident birds will also be accounted for.

Two days prior to the year’s end, Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter announced the appointment of Village of Oak Creek resident Connie Harris to the Yavapai College District Governing Board.Connie Harris takes over Al Filardo’s vacated District 3 seat on the Yavapai College District Governing Board. She brings with her nearly four decades of experience in education.

The position — which represents YCDGB District 3, comprising the upper Verde Valley communities of Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Jerome, Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek — was created by the resignation of Al Filardo in December. The appointment is valid from Harris taking the oath of office during the YCDGB meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10, through Dec. 31, 2018.

Pass by the Clemenceau Plaza at the northwest corner of State Route 89A and S. Sixth Street in Cottonwood, and you might notice an uptick in activity.Anne and Damien Browning run Steps to Recovery Homes in Cottonwood. The Brownings recently moved their office into the Clemenceau Plaza, and opened a resale store called Miracles Happen.

Now in its fourth month in the historic plaza, Steps to Recovery Homes has fully opened its door to the community. Founders Damien and Anne Browning welcome applicants to its addiction recovery program and help train volunteers. At Miracles Happen, the nonprofit’s resale store two doors down, current and former participants in the recovery program sort, pick up, label and sell used items.

Just prior to stepping into the role of Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor on Tuesday, Jan. 3, Randy Garrison said it would be some time before he understood the full extent of his responsibilities.Randy Garrison, the newly-elected Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor representing the Cottonwood and Sedona areas, said he will act as a facilitator of community needs, with transportation and economic development as his top priorities.

“I’m constantly learning what abilities I have,” Garrison said. “I still don’t know what the job pays.”

Any given day in the Verde Valley, dozens, if not hundreds, of dogs are walked off their leashes — and yet the city ordinance is clear: Dogs must be leashed at all times outside private property. The sole exception is when dogs are inside the Riverfront Dog Park.Rob and Yvonne Cole with their 2-year-old Rottweiler Cami at Riverfront Dog Park. The dog park is the only area within Cottonwood city limits, other than private property, where unleashed dogs are allowed.

Enforcing leash laws, however, is difficult. Many dog owners simply ignore the requirement — if they are aware of it at all.

A recent post in the Verde Santa Fe newsletter and then circulated to various city employees, highlights the risks for passersby and dog owners of failing to follow the letter of the law.

End of life matters are never comfortable, never tidy — a fact that isn’t lost on the staff and volunteers of Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Valley View Care assisted living facility in Cottonwood.File image/Larson Newspapers

Opened in October 2014, the facility specializes in hospice care for individuals lacking the resources to stay in their own homes.

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