The manager: New Town Manager David Andrews will lead a cash-strapped, nearly built-out Oro Valley - Tucson Local Media: Import

The manager: New Town Manager David Andrews will lead a cash-strapped, nearly built-out Oro Valley

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Posted: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:52 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

August 23, 2006 - His reputation is squeaky clean.

With words like "thoughtful," "intelligent" and "ethical" often used to describe him, David Andrews might get mistaken for the newest minister at Casas Adobes Baptist Church, instead of Oro Valley's top bureaucrat.

But the seemingly untarnished 46-year-old Texas native won't give any Sunday sermons anytime soon. He'll be too busy filling the shoes of out-going Town Manager Chuck Sweet.

Besides, he was raised Catholic.

Sweet on Sept. 1 will relinquish the post he's held for 13 years, turning over the top job to one of the few employees who's worked at town hall longer than him.

Andrews is expected to usher in a new era for Oro Valley.

As residential growth slows in the town, commercial development booms. The town has matured, and Andrews has been tapped to guide Oro Valley through its figurative adolescence.

In a couple dozen interviews, people said they think he's well suited for the job. His experience with the town and strong leadership skills should see him through, many said.

But managing the books as Oro Valley's finance director kept him fairly free of controversy for most of his 15 years working for the town. The town manager draws much more fire, and could put him in a position to take heat from some of Oro Valley's highly involved and opinionated citizens.

With the town manager at the helm, Mayor Paul Loomis compared the structure of a local government to that of a corporation. The town manager is the chief executive officer, who oversees the staff and manages day-to-day operations. The town council is the board of directors; the mayor is the chairman of that board.

The job of town manager is a balancing act, said Oro Valley Economic Director David Welsh, who will work under Andrews.

Andrews will be a buffer between the council and his staff. The manager must take the council's policy decisions and determine the best way to implement them through the staff. The manager also must understand the issues and problems facing the community.

Oro Valley's biggest problem remains its tight budget.

The town must find ways to sustain its high level of services while collecting fewer fees from developers. It's tackling potential annexations and trying to manage declining water resources. On top of that, the town is trying to save historic sites from development.

As town manager, Andrews will tackle plenty of complicated tasks, but he seems unabashed.

He's mild-mannered and calm, though all the attention focused on him recently seems to make him a little nervous.

He said he loves local government and loves coming to work each day. Andrews foresees staying in local government for the next 15 to 20 years.

Dozens of Oro Valley citizens, including town employees, council members and residents, said they think Andrews will succeed.

"If you're talking about David Andrews, you're talking about one of my favorite subjects," said Dick Eggerding, a co-founder of the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council. "I think David is a deep man, in his ability, and skills."

Eggerding, who has served on Oro Valley boards for the past 13 years, called Andrews a deep thinker who analyzes situations, but still is decisive.

"And he's obviously, from an educational point of view, well prepared," Eggerding said. "A lot of people don't realize this is a man who got a master's in public administration and got straight A's."

It's true. Andrews maintained a 4.0 grade-point average while getting his master's degree from the University of Arizona.

Councilman Al Kunisch considers Andrews a quick thinker who has a good knowledge of the town.

"He gets it right away," Kunisch said. "He's a great manager, he's very organized and he gets along well with people."

Andrews has good ethics and he's well liked by everyone at town hall, said Councilwoman Helen Dankwerth.

"You couldn't meet a nicer person," Dankwerth said. "He's thoughtful, intelligent and an excellent listener."

Don Chatfield, an associate director of the Sonoran Institute and former community development director in Oro Valley, called Andrews transparent and a collaborative worker.

Andrews grew shy when questioned about the fountain of compliments he has received. With a little prodding, he even tried to think of a few people who might not like him.

"Why don't you call the (Northern Pima County) Chamber of Commerce, or maybe Vistoso Partners," he suggested. "I don't know what they'd say, but I'd be interested to know."

The town has stiff rules for businesses and can be tough on developers; perhaps Andrews thought a few would hold a grudge against him.

Nope.

Dick Maes, the general manager of Rancho Vistoso, one of Oro Valley's biggest commercial and residential developments, said Andrews was always a good person to work with.

But Maes pointed out that Andrews has always been in finance, a position that doesn't draw much heat. For 14 years Andrews was Oro Valley's finance director. It wasn't until 2005 that he took the position as assistant town manager.

"I wish him luck," Maes said. "He's moving into a very difficult position, a position that draws controversy. Council members are headstrong and it doesn't always work out easily. As the town manager you have to deal with those people that are obstinate, on the developer and the council side."

Outgoing manager Chuck Sweet seconded Maes' observation.

Some of Sweet's toughest times as town manager came during the council recall elections in the 1990s. The political turmoil that resonated through the community, he said.

"Being assistant manager versus manager is a different role, so I can't say what (Andrews) will be like," Sweet said. "I think he'll do very well."

Sweet said he and Andrews have backgrounds in finance, and arrived at city management with fairly similar approaches, though they have some differences in terms of style.

As for some parting words: "I'd tell David to be inclusive of his staff, which he's already demonstrated. Gather their input; don't try to do it alone."

Most people interviewed said all managers' styles differ and wouldn't pinpoint specific differences between Sweet and Andrews. But a few said Sweet and Andrews actually are quite different leaders.

Oro Valley's mayor said Andrews has a "more open style," when it comes to his availability to the public, department heads and council.

"I think there'll be some changes, and I think there will be opportunity," Loomis said. "Chuck got us through some tough times and established a foundation for the town. David is going to be able to expand on that."

Councilwoman Dankwerth said Andrews is a more attentive listener.

"Dave manages bottom-up, as opposed to top-down," Dankwerth added: "He's not wearing any hobnob boots. I'm not saying Chuck did, but David works together with people to find a solution."

Andrews' management style seems along those lines.

When he talked about his plans for town's future, his ideas where littered with phrases like, "what the people want" and "we'll work together."

That doesn't mean he hasn't already piled his desk high with ambitious plans for Oro Valley's future.

"We have an outdated community economic strategy, adopted in 1997, that said the town's interested in development of retail, tourism and biomedical industry," Andrews said in a recent interview. "We're still interested in those things, but David Welsh (the economic director) and I are looking at updating our economic development strategy."

Financial sustainability is the biggest issue the town must address in the next three to five years, Andrews said.

With residential growth slowed and approaching build-out, Andrews said the town's focus has turned to retail development.

"Those commercial projects are going to grow the retail sales tax rate," he said. "The question is: Will that be enough money to sustain the levels of service that the town residents want and expect? We are looking at that."

The council is considering the annexation of nearby commercial areas, which would also contribute to sales tax revenue.

Andrews said he will work on a new economic model that will help the council and citizens see if Oro Valley can survive on sales tax revenue alone.

Oro Valley does not levy a property tax.

"Ten years ago you wouldn't even say the words 'property tax,'" Andrews said. "But more people are moving here from other areas that have property taxes."

Still, it's too early to say if the town will consider a property tax. Recent town surveys showed that 75 percent of residents do not support a property tax, Andrews said.

"However, I do think it will be a point of discussion within the community and that is a step forward," Andrews said. "In the next five years, we'll see whether the retail will be able to sustain the level of services or not."

Andrews said he's excited about working with organizations like the Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. to bring more high-tech, high-paying jobs to Oro Valley.

One of the reasons Ventana Medical Systems, an international medical instruments manufacturer, set up its North American headquarters in Oro Valley is because the local government reached out to it and offered its support, Andrews said.

He wants to keep reaching out to businesses.

In Andrews' town hall office, a bulletin board with a small "Don't Mess with Texas" poster, a bobble-head doll and bookshelf with a few framed photos of his children, hint that he isn't all business.

Andrews has a pretty low-key personal life.

He lives alone in Oro Valley, and has two children attending the University of Arizona, Damon, 22, and Sabrina, 20.

Taking down a small shot glass from his kitchen cabinet on a recent Saturday morning, Andrews recalled his Friday night activities.

Grocery shopping and some relaxing with his dog Lou, filled the evening, he said, as he filled the shot glass with four of five different colored vitamins.

It's likely that the shot glass hasn't been used for liquor lately.

Andrews and his friendly golden retriever take it easy on the weekends.

Andrews occasionally takes his blue, extended-cab pickup truck, with Lou riding in the bed, to hike up a mountain or shoot at the gun range.

Andrews son, Damon, said he's always been close with his dad, who has been divorced from his mom for more than 10 years. He said he and his dad go golfing, shooting and mostly just meet up to go out to eat.

Damon said his dad, who grew up in Tyler, Texas, has changed as he has gotten older, perhaps getting a little more in touch with his Southern roots.

"He's a good Texan," Damon Andrews said.

From her home in Arlington, Texas, Andrews' mother Edith Pride, said her youngest of nine was always sensible, even as a teenager.

"He was your typical teenager," Pride, 79, said. "David played football for one year. He made good grades. Mostly As. He's the apple of my eye. We're very proud of him."

Andrews is one of two of Pride's children to get a college degree, and the only one of nine to achieve a Master's degree. Her baby, she said, goes home about once or twice a year and always calls and sends a card on her birthday.

"He called me and asked me what I wanted for my birthday," Pride said. "I told him I didn't want anything. Well, he sent me a wonderful card, made tears come from my eyes, with $100 in it."

Running through the Naranja Town Site with Lou on a recent Saturday, Andrews appears excited about leading the town.

He considers Oro Valley a beautiful community, albeit with high expectations. "Still, after 15 years, I enjoy coming to work everyday."

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