Mayor Spotlight: Mayor Scott LeMarr, Town of Paradise Valley

Town of Paradise Valley
Incorporated: 1961
Population: 12,820
Elevation: 1,165 ft.
County: Maricopa
Area within Limits: 16 sq. mi.

Why did you decide to serve in local government?
As a resident of the town of Paradise Valley for 37 years, I experienced the unique small-town character that makes Paradise Valley such an ideal place to raise a family. I was interested in serving the community and was appointed to the Board of Adjustment in 1989. After serving on the board for four years, I then became a member of the planning commission. During my eight years on the planning commission, I learned to value the concept of open space and helped author the Open Space Ordinance that was adopted in 2000. I also worked with other planning commissioners and was chair of the General Plan Advisory Committee. This committee was charged with making revisions to the town's general plan to comply with state mandated "growing smarter" requirements.

After serving on the board and planning commission, I wanted to use that experience to better serve all our residents and improve our neighborhoods. I ran for council in 2004 and was elected for a four-year term. During that time, I served on the Fire Safety Committee as two new fire stations were built and an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Phoenix was developed. These two initiatives ensured outstanding fire protection service for not only our residents, but our neighbors in Clearwater Hills; and mutual aid with the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well. I ran again in 2008 and served another four- year term, the last two years as mayor. In 2012, the town held its first direct election of the mayor. I was encouraged to run and became the first mayor directly elected to office by our voters.

I believe that strong community involvement so characteristic of our residents and strong enforcement of our ordinances is the only way to maintain our coveted lifestyle, one that exemplifies the character of Paradise Valley.

What are the biggest challenges facing your city today?
The biggest challenge that all cities and towns are facing today is maintaining a balanced budget and ensuring that residents are protected while maintaining the quality of life to which residents are accustomed.

In recent years, the cost of pensions for our retired police and firefighters has skyrocketed. At the current rate for Paradise Valley, without pension reform, the amount will soon be unsustainable.

Since the bed and sales tax revenue from the town's resorts comprises a third of our operating budget, it is essential to get all our resorts at optimal level as soon as possible. The revitalization of the Mountain Shadows Resort property on Lincoln Drive is finally underway. The Cottonwoods construction and redevelopment is also before the town council and it appears that another large project, Five Star Development's Ritz Carlton, is working on revised plans for its parcel at Lincoln and Mockingbird. Once these three resorts become operational, the town's revenue will increase.

The town council is committed to continuing to protect our residents. In this regard, there are several new technology projects that are currently underway in the Police Department. As part of the Regional Wireless Cooperative with Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County, the town will be upgrading the communications tower for both fire and police. We will also be purchasing license plate readers, installing in-car cameras, and adding four new police officers in 2014. The police department has also increased its public outreach and education efforts to help make our community safer. An example of this is the implementation of CodeRed, a new emergency alert service for all town businesses and residents.

What opportunities do you see for your community?
For a small community we sure are busy. We recently completed a sustainable, state-of-the-art courthouse that is located between the police and fire departments on Lincoln Drive. We took this opportunity to include green features in the new building, creating an environmentally friendly and sustainable building for now and the future.

Our capital projects for the coming year are very ambitious, with roadway improvements scheduled for 56th Street, Mockingbird Lane and Stanford Drive. APS Underground Conversion District 21 will be done this year, as well as the SRP Stanford Drive Conversion in conjunction with the Stanford Drive reconstruction project. The completion of these undergrounding projects will make the town virtually 100% undergrounded; thus ensuring beautiful unobstructed mountain and desert vistas.

What are you most proud of during your time in office?
As a volunteer member of our town government for the past 25 years, I have seen many changes, and yet our small community has remained the same. I am proud to say that we have diligently kept intact many of the visions of our Founding Fathers. The mayor, council, municipal court judges, and members of our boards, committees and commission still serve on a volunteer basis. Our building code still adheres to the one house-per-acre zoning, and our residents still do not pay a property tax to the town. We have limited government and the best public safety protection per capita in the nation. Changing our elections to an all-mail ballot in 2000 increased voter turnout threefold, from a low of 12% to a high of 38%. Implementation of our new general plan maintains our low density residential lifestyle that ensures the special quality of living in Paradise Valley.

There are several community events and programs throughout the year that bring our residents together, like the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Town Hall in January, and the Vintage Car Show in November, with proceeds benefiting our veterans. The Paradise Valley Relay for Life that takes place at the beginning of May has also brought a sense of community to those residents who volunteer to make it happen. The town worked with the city of Scottsdale to honor our long-time resident and world-renowned cartoonist Bil Keane by installing a pavilion and sculpture last November.

Paradise Valley is home to me. From the sculpture commemorating the four girls of Birmingham at the Unitarian Universalist Church; to the one honoring the great statesman Barry Goldwater at Tatum and Lincoln; and the one just completed and installed at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park of world- renowned cartoonist Bil Keane, Paradise Valley is a place we can all be proud to call home.

Why is the League important to cities and towns in Arizona?
The League is an important link to all Arizona cities and towns. It represents us at the Legislature and alerts us on issues that effect and may change local municipalities and protect against ceding more control to the state or federal government. For example, recently there was a bill that would reduce or eliminate the construction sales tax revenue that each city collects. The League knew this was happening and urged cities and towns to adamantly object to this initiative and helped reach a compromise. Timely lobbying to such bills is important to every city and town in Arizona.

The League is also a training tool. They provide seminars for newly elected officials that include opening meeting laws, Robert's Rules of Order, and set protocol for municipal governance. They provide new cities with an outline to develop their own municipal code.

League of Arizona Cities and Towns
1820 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ  85007
Phone: 602-258-5786
Fax: 602-253-3874

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