Retreat reveals rather cohesive council

Cave Creek Town Council held a retreat (informal working session) at the Cave Creek Museum on Sept. 20 to develop a three to five year strategic vision, council priorities and objectives to achieve that vision and accomplish their objectives and goals.

CAVE CREEK – Marilyn Oyler from Partners in Participation facilitated a workshop for council during a retreat held at the Cave Creek Museum on Wednesday to help council develop a purposeful three to five year strategic vision for the town, assist in prioritizing items and how best to achieve their objectives.

Town Manager Carrie Dyrek participated in the workshop while Councilwoman Mary Elrod was absent.

The only observer in attendance besides Sonoran News was Reg Monachino, who stated he was present because he is “concerned about the division on council.”

Oyler had council begin by introducing themselves and telling something about themselves their fellow council members may not know.

Mayor Ernie Bunch stated he was a hired killer in California back in his younger days, which he clarified was as an exterminator for a pest control company.

When asked to state what they felt were important accomplishments by the town, participants mentioned things such as desert preservation, preserving Spur Cross, preserving the rodeo in Cave Creek, maintaining the Desert Rural lifestyle and updating the zoning regulations.

Councilman David Smith said all of the accomplishments weren’t necessarily good ones as he mentioned the establishment of debt.

Councilman Thomas McGuire noted the town, at the time it incorporated also changed its zoning to lower density in order to preserve the rural desert character of the town.

McGuire stated the recent recall election (which removed Monachino and three other members from council) led council to perform some self examination.

Vice Mayor Ron Sova said he believed citizens are looking for continuity as he pointed out the town has recently had three town managers, a change in council and change in the town engineers.

Smith said he was “going against the current” and saw Cave Creek as three things, which, in addition to the town core and large parcel zoning, it has a large suburban part of town.

Councilwoman Eileen Wright said she didn’t see those areas as suburban.

McGuire said what he believed Smith was saying is “we’re in transition.”

Councilwoman Susan Clancy said it’s an evolution of what towns go through.

Thinking about what they viewed as trends, Smith stated, prior to Walmart, the town was adamantly against big box stores and franchises locating in Cave Creek but now the town not only has a Walmart store but an Auto Zone, Tractor Supply and Burger King as well.

He said what happened in the past was the impact of not looking into the future.

Oyler had the group break down into pairs to do some brainstorming about what they wanted to see in future three to five years from now.

She asked them to imagine it was the year 2022 and asked a series of questions to trigger ideas, such as: what activities did they see going on, accomplishments they were most proud of, what was the town doing that was innovative or on the cutting edge, how were people doing things differently, what types of alliances and partnerships they’ve entered into, how were citizens exchanging ideas, what services is the city providing and how were they engaging young people.

Oyler asked them to think about who the champions of the town are, key leaders who make things happen, what stories were being told about the town and what the headlines might be in five years.

Addressing perceived problems, Wright said they needed to have unceasing respect for their citizens and stated the council chambers would be packed every night if they did.

She said, “Now they don’t feel respected or that we listen to them.”

Other comments included having the town provide customer service five days per week and four-year council terms.

It was also suggested there be activities to keep teens out of trouble.

Bunch stated they can have lots of ideas and goals but the problem is not having the money.

Clancy said the town needs to update its policies.

However, Smith pointed out the town has policies that haven’t been followed in the past and caused problems.

Bunch said he prefers to call the townspeople “residents” rather than “citizens,” saying there is no such thing as a Cave Creek citizen.

Suggestions were made for the town to pursue filling the commercial vacancies in town, whereas businesses would be attracted to a thriving business community.

Wright stated, “We, as a council, cannot attract businesses.”

Dyrek said the town needs to grow its revenue-generating commercial business sector with infill of the commercial core and new businesses if they work on an economic development plan.

When Oyler asked if the town has a long-term financial plan, Dyrek said they only have an annual budget not any long-term financial planning.

Just before going to break, Dyrek said the town attempted to do this same process about 14 years ago but never got as far as they did.

Oyler said there seemed to be a consensus on council what the goals are.

After returning from break, council prioritized its objectives and subsequently strategies for accomplishing those goals.

Oyler will be taking the information gathered and organizing it in a report.

The following day, Bunch said he was really pleased with how the workshop went and didn’t believe the town could have accomplished this on its own without the assistance of a facilitator.