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Kingman City Council split on residency requirements

Dick Anderson

City Council split on residency requirements to serve on boards, commissions

KINGMAN - What's more important for a member of one of Kingman's boards or commissions: Expertise or a Kingman address?

The correct answer is both, and neither answer is wrong, but attracting viable Kingman residents and those just outside the city to serve has proved difficult for the City Council. More importantly, perhaps, some boards require more of their members.

In a rare showdown Feb. 4, the City Council split 3-3 on whether to keep or dismiss Mark Retersdorf, a member of the city's Economic Development and Marketing Commission. Retersdorf recently moved from Kingman to Lake Havasu City because his wife's job transferred her there. He still works in Kingman, at Mohave Community College. He is, by all accounts, an essential member of the commission.

Ultimately, City Attorney Carl Cooper volunteered to rewrite a vaguely worded city code dealing with membership requirements that allowed City Council members to develop opposing yet viable cases for either argument.

Vice Mayor Carole Young will play the role of tiebreaker when the City Council revisits the question at Tuesday's meeting.

Young had a planned absence from the Feb. 4 meeting, which led to the tie vote and eventual stalemate.

Councilwoman Jen Miles and Councilmen Richard Anderson and Mark Wimpee supported retaining Retersdorf and his expertise. Mayor Janet Watson, Councilwoman Erin Cochran and Councilman Larry Carver voted to cut him loose, reasoning that membership in the city's boards and commissions should be reserved for citizens and those just outside of the city with either a Kingman address or on the city's water service.

Here's Anderson's take:

On the ordinance being rewritten:

"The current ordinance is vague. Too vague, but prior Councils and city managers recognized the need to have some leeway and flexibility to ensure that required technical skills and abilities that are needed for some commissions can be recruited - that it may require a little different approach. They were so right."

On Retersdorf continuing to serve:

"My concern is not about a specific person, but the ability to recruit required skills. Imposing residency parameters makes a tough recruit even tougher. Getting the right skill set is the ultimate objective."

On the argument that boards should be filled by residents of the Greater Kingman Area:

"Of course the optimum situation is to have large numbers of enthusiastic, local applicants with significant knowledge, skills and abilities for each of our commissions. The mission of each commission varies, however, as does the amount of any experience or technical requirements to accomplish the mission. Commissioners are not paid. This is entirely voluntary on their part. Several of our commissions augment a full time presence already in the city structure and require a minimum of technical expertise. Others, like Planning and Zoning, Municipal Utilities and Board of Adjustment require a working knowledge or experience in specific disciplines."

On the important role of the tourism and economic development commissions:

"Two commissions have a very significant role in the financial well-being of the city. These are the Tourism Development Commission and the Economic Development and Marketing Commission. The Tourism Development Commission receives a 2 percent hotel bed tax to fund various projects and initiatives to promote tourism and to fund a full time tourism director and visitor center operations. Tourism operations cost just under $200,000 a year. A 2011 tourism study for Mohave County conducted by Northern Arizona University found that tourism provided $168 million to Kingman businesses and only $85 million to the rest of the county.

"Obviously, the work of the commissioners is a major factor in bringing money to the city and to help keep city taxes low. Kingman residents expect the city to compete and bring jobs and services to Kingman. We do not have a viable capability to realistically compete. Changing a city ordinance will only serve to make it more difficult to meet resident expectations."

What he hopes happens:

"The end result is to have fully functional and viable commissions to assist the city with its responsibilities to the residents. I hope whatever decision we make will lead to that end."

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