Originally Published: March 20, 2018 6:04 a.m.
With its large population of veterans, Prescott already does a lot of things right in its efforts to help vets who are in need of medical care or social services, says Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli.
But there are things that could be done to better engage and assist veterans in other phases of their lives, he said, and it is the mission of a new mayor’s ad hoc Commission on Veterans Initiatives to fill in the gaps.
The new committee is just one of a number of changes Mengarelli has made in the make-up of city committees since he took office in November.
During his 2017 campaign for the mayor’s post, Mengarelli said he encountered a segment of the veteran population that tends to fly under the radar.
“They don’t really want recognition and don’t sign up for services,” Mengarelli said. “They don’t want the focus to be on themselves.”
Often, those veterans are from the more recent conflicts, beginning with Desert Storm in the early 1990s, and continuing through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Tying in with the city’s efforts to ramp up its economic development, Mengarelli foresees the new commission working to create more job opportunities for younger veterans.
“We want to help them transition,” he said. “There is a high interest level in creating entrepreneurship.”
Commission member John Markham agrees.
“We want the younger veterans to come back here,” he said.
The new commissioners –Markham, Stan Goligoski, Pat Kuykendall, and Michelle Stacy-Schroeder, all veterans – were sworn into office in February, and conducted their first meeting in early March.
Markham, who served in the Army for three and a half years in the 1980s and then was recalled for Desert Storm in the early 1990s, said the experience left him with an understanding of the hardships that military families can go through during deployment.
At that time, Markham said there was little or no support system available to help families navigate the deployment.
Although Markham said he benefited by being a long-time Prescott resident and having a supportive employer, others were not as fortunate. “That’s an experience nobody should go through alone,” he said.
As military deployments became more common in the ensuing years, Markham said, an infrastructure was created to help families going through deployment.
Still, in recent years, the focus has shifted again.
“When it is out of the public view, people tend to forget,” Markham said.
Among the objectives of Commission on Veterans Initiatives will be to “coordinate and advance the needs, activities, and encourage the growth of the veteran community within the City of Prescott Departments.”
Prescott officials point out that three city employees are currently serving active duty, and one more is expected to deploy soon.
In February, the city began displaying a yellow ribbon at city hall to recognize and honor those employees.
Other objectives of the veterans’ commission include: advocate and draft city policy to address and support the needs of veterans; act as a link between local veteran organizations and promote collaboration; identify veteran programs that complement the city’s master plans, programs and objectives; and identify and promote industry and governmental agencies’ recognized benchmarks for veteran program success.
Along with the new veterans’ commission, Mengarelli has also revamped the previous Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes as the new Mayor’s Commission on Prevention, Addiction and Recovery.
The new committee members include: Louie Gomez; Leslie Horton; Jaye Lene Long; Molly McGinn; Mo Michael; and Ryan Smith.
The commission’s stated mission is to build upon the success of the structured sober living group, which was appointed as an ad hoc committee by previous Mayor Harry Oberg.
The new commission’s objectives include: identify best practices and provide recommendations to the community and city on new initiatives; continue to monitor structured sober living homes in Prescott and identify national and local trends that could impact the number of homes, quality of care to clients, or neighborhoods’ quality of life or safety.
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