August 17, 2005 - In a unanimous and politically motivated move best described as a "changing of the guards," the Marana Town Council has decided not to reappoint Dave Parker to the town's Planning and Zoning Commission after seven years of service.
The council's feelings on the matter, particularly regarding Parker's leadership style, were so strong that Parker, who served the last four years as chairman, was not granted an interview when three commission seats opened up last month. The vacancies included his position, to which Parker hoped to be reappointed.
Instead, the council appointed John Dailey, Jon Post and Jack Noble, who were sworn in Aug. 2 to serve four-year terms expiring in June 2009. Post was reappointed to the position he stepped into last year, while newcomers Dailey and Noble filled the spots of Parker and Bob Allen, who was recently appointed to the town council.
Council members say they appreciate Parker's dedication to the town but the way he ran meetings "didn't fit into the philosophy of the town council." Specifically, they said, Parker asked too many questions in public about developments brought before the town, slowed up meetings, and ultimately didn't jibe with their personal belief that all concerns should be directed to town staff before a person steps onto the dais.
"I can appreciate what Dave's done for our community. Unfortunately, the philosophy just wasn't there. It was time to make a change," said Councilman Tim Escobedo, who served on the commission with Parker before joining the council.
"We always believe in doing your homework prior to getting to the dais," Escobedo said, adding that Parker raised questions at meetings that could have been directed to town staff beforehand. "Being chairman, you should address all your concerns prior to the dais, and that was an issue."
Councilman Jim Blake said Parker was causing meetings to run longer than most people liked.
"This council has developed a method that seems to work for us," he said. "If we have questions, we go directly to staff and sometimes we'll even go directly to the builders or developers and ask for clarification. That way, we generally know how we plan on voting before we even get to the meeting."
Less than optimistic, Parker showed up to the July 26 council meeting at which select candidates for the commission vacancies were interviewed behind closed doors. He said he wanted to make sure it was no mistake that he hadn't been asked to be there.
Parker said he never received a phone call from anyone nor has anyone discussed the decision with him. No one approached him at that meeting, either.
"When I wasn't selected for an interview for council, I kind of thought this might be coming," admitted Parker, who sought the vacancy on the town council last month after strongly considering running in the past several elections.
Parker admitted he asked a lot of questions at meetings but said that didn't mean he wasn't doing his homework. During planning commission meetings, Parker often raised questions regarding everything from lot sizes and garage locations to architectural styles and access drives.
"Personally, I think asking questions is a good thing, making sure you are looking at things from all sides," he said.
Council members said commissioners had concerns about Parker, which they voiced to the council. Post, who was reappointed to the commission, was one of those people.
Post said he agreed with the council's decision because he thought Parker sometimes might have gone "a little bit beyond" what his position called for.
The planning commission consists of seven citizens who serve without pay and act in an advisory capacity to the town council on land use issues. Development activity coming before the town is sent to the planning commission for consideration before it's passed on to the council for approval.
"I like David. He's just a nice guy, but it was probably time for a change," Post said. "He did a good job, and he was very knowledgeable about things. He did what he thought was the right thing to do, but I think probably some of the council members felt it was in the best interest of the town, with the amount of things that are going to be on the agenda, that they make some changes."
Mayor Ed Honea said all the council members were given the opportunity to nominate any candidates they thought should be considered for the commission. Those who were nominated were then interviewed July 26. Those who were interviewed include the three appointees and Dove Mountain resident Steve Wacker, whom the council passed on.
"In all reality, these are political appointments and if individuals on the council feel more comfortable with certain individuals then that's how it comes about," Honea said.
In a July 25 e-mail message to Town Clerk Jocelyn Bronson, Marana resident Dorothy Taylor expressed frustration at learning that the council would be interviewing select candidates at the July 26 meeting. Taylor said she spoke personally with Honea on July 12, declaring her intentions to join the commission, and said she was upset to later discover that the council selectively chooses who is granted an interview.
"At what point in time does a resident STOP showing an interest in their community?" Taylor wrote, asking if she needed to be a "chosen one." Taylor also sought the vacancy on the town council last month.
"Each letter I received from Marana regarding my interest in the council seat stated, 'Stay involved in Marana.' How does one do that?" she wrote. "I don't see the open-door policy that the town so freely speaks of or that of communities like Oro Valley and Tucson share."
Letters obtained by the EXPLORER through a public records request suggest that those appointed to the commission didn't have to make much of an effort to get an interview. Post's entire letter of intent addressed to the council read, "I have enjoyed my time on the Planning and Zoning Commission and would like to serve another term."
Noble, chairman of the town's Board of Adjustments, simply dropped an e-mail message to Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat on July 13 stating, "This email will verify that I am still interested in the appointment to any vacant seat on the Marana Planning and Zoning Commission," and also leaving his phone number.
Dailey, a Pima Community College faculty member and son-in-law of well-known Marana resident Karl Horvath, did not submit a letter of intent to the town. Instead, the council approached Dailey, who had been one of the finalists chosen to interview for the council vacancy last month, Bronson said.
Parker said he verbally expressed interest in seeking reappointment to Planning Director Barbara Berlin and e-mailed a letter of intent to Reuwsaat stating that, in the event that he wasn't chosen to fill the council vacancy, he hoped to be reappointed to the commission.
Berlin declined to comment on the council's decision when contacted by the EXPLORER.
The reason behind certain town officials' disdain for Parker may extend beyond his conduct at planning commission meetings, though. More than one town official admitted Parker stepped on some toes when he spoke out during a council meeting last year accusing the town of rolling over to developers.
At that meeting, on March 31, Parker specifically cited the controversial Willow Ridge project, which has been a touchy subject for town officials who support the particular development south of Cortaro Road near Camino De Oeste. Since he spoke at that meeting, Parker said he thinks the town has taken measures to better plan for the future.
"My comments at that time were based upon some projects that were coming forward that, when you read the projects and read the proposals and the staff reports, it made you wonder who was driving the long-range planning," Parker said. "Were we waiting for developers to come forward with a plan or were we stepping forward with a vision of our own?"
Parker was the lone dissenter last year when the commission voted to approve a rezoning for the Willow Ridge project, which allowed one house per 6,000 square feet, and some commercial development, on land previously zoned for one house per 144,000 square feet.
Parker said he opposed the rezoning because he felt it changed the nature of the land. The project is now moving forward after having been subject to a voter referendum and multiple lawsuits filed by citizens who still question the town's ties to developers and say the project is destructive to the natural desert.
Speaking up at a council meeting is not atypical of Parker, though. Most recently, he spoke at a meeting in January at which time he asked council members to consider the adoption of a nonsmoking ordinance, an issue that has been collecting dust inside town hall for years while Pima County, Tucson and Oro Valley all have adopted such measures. Parker suffers from allergies that he says keep him out of some restaurants where smoking is allowed.
"I did think it a little ironic that we can have two task force meetings and a public hearing and have a half-cent sales tax within six months but we still don't have a clear direction on a nonsmoking ordinance," Parker said.
Planning Commissioner Billy Schisler, a longtime Marana resident and former mayor, said he was surprised at the council's decision not to reappoint Parker, who he said is very much in-tune with development happening in the town.
"He learned his development code and all that real quick. He was precise," Schisler said. "Maybe that bothered some people by being too knowledgeable, too picky-picky maybe."
Schisler said he'll miss cracking jokes with Parker at meetings, recalling one night in particular.
"One time, he was saying, 'I didn't have time to scan through this proposal,' and he went on to ask questions and it carried on a long time," he said. "I interrupted him halfway though and said, 'Boy, I'm glad you didn't have time to really study it.' I was amazed how many questions and notations he was able to make. That was a good thing on Dave Parker's behalf. Sometimes it took too long but somebody's got to ask these questions."
Without the duty of leading Marana's planning commission, Parker still has the responsibility of raising his two young daughters, working a full-time job and serving as a deacon at the Mountain View Baptist Church. Parker has been the director of Pima County's risk management department since 1996 and has served in various roles on the Arizona Board of Pardons and Paroles. He also was a police detective and traffic safety investigator in San Diego.
Parker, who said it was an honor to serve the town for seven years, said he has faith that the commission still is in good hands and he has no hard feelings.
"I feel I've made a difference, so what more can a person ask for? You don't do it for a pat on the back, you do it for the ability to make a difference," he said. "We're a town that's growing into a city and I'm glad I've had a chance to be a part of that. And who knows, maybe a comment here or there helped bring something to somebody's attention."
The town plans to hold a one-hour training session prior to the next planning commission meeting to assist commissioners in their decision-making capacity. Also new to the commission is Dave Wostenberg, who came aboard in June when he was appointed to fill a vacancy left by Richard Purcella.
All commissioners, newcomers and veterans, alike, can expect some high-volume development activity before the town in the coming months and years, which Schisler said he looks forward to.
"It's gonna come at us fast and furious," he said. "It' going to be a pretty good-sized workload and I think we can handle it. We may have to go to two meetings a month instead of one."
Post, son of well-known Marana resident and school board member Dan Post, is a farmer by day. He and his family farm about 4,000 acres of property known as Post Farms, most of which lies northwest of Moore and Sanders roads in the midst of the development tide crashing through Marana.
"Man, there's going to be a lot of projects coming online in the next two years, three years, for sure. Development is just exploding in Marana. I don't even think we've seen the tip of the iceberg yet," he said. "My personal position is, I've been a resident for 35 years, I'm 36, and I'm going to make my decisions based on continuing to raise my family in this community."
Escobedo said the council has laid out its vision for the town and he knows more and more people want to be involved in the decision process as Marana continues to grow.
"It's good to see that we have citizens out there that want to be part of this growing organization," he said. "The bottom line is, we're a gold mine. We have everything a community would dream of having."
Parker said there still are some outstanding issues to address and council members will probably see him at a call to the public now and then, just as they have in the past. One day, he might decide to run for council, but that's a decision he said he'll make when election time rolls around.
"In the meantime, I have more than enough to keep my plate full," he said.