Photo by Cindy Barks.
Originally Published: November 4, 2016 5:55 a.m.
PRESCOTT – From libraries to information technology to sustainable growth, new Prescott City Manager Michael Lamar heard a spectrum of community concerns this week.
For about two hours Wednesday evening, Nov. 2, Lamar conducted his first open-office-hours session at the Prescott Public Library. He had billed it as a time when any and all local residents could stop by and talk one-on-one about their issues and concerns.
Seven people turned out and signed up to talk with Lamar – most of them there to introduce themselves and their interests.
“It’s been some meet-and-greet, and some specific concerns,” Lamar said Wednesday, as he worked his way through the list.
Bill Arnold, for instance, was there largely to fill Lamar in about the Friends of the Prescott Public Library – the organization, currently chaired by Arnold, which raises money for the library and contributes about $100,000 per year.
“I wanted him to know that we support the library,” Arnold said as he waited for his session with Lamar.
In addition, Arnold said he intended to discuss the possible ramifications to the library from the city’s growing unfunded liability with the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS). Earlier this year, the city reduced the budget for the library (along with a number of other departments) to help cover the pension costs.
“I’d like to talk with him about how that’s going to play out,” Arnold said.
Lamar also heard from Robbin Gatling, a recent transplant from Austin, Texas, who wanted to talk about Prescott’s potential to become an information-technology hub.
With hopes of growing his data-management-solutions company Nuvocomp in Prescott, Gatling said he has found that the area lacks a crucial component: “The talent pool is dry,” he said of the IT field. Other than the people already working in IT for local governments and schools, Gatling says the area lacks trained IT professionals.
Noting that the Prescott area focuses mostly on the medical, tourism, education, and retiree sectors, Gatling said his discussion with Lamar would focus on “How do we create a talent pool (for IT)?” Specifically, he said he was interested in working with Yavapai College to create an “incubator” for IT-related training and advancement.
Lamar agreed, identifying high-tech training and industry as a priority.
Toward that goal, he said, an “incubator” would involve “finding people in the university setting who are interested in being entrepreneurs,” and ultimately in developing start-ups, which would then stay in the area.
“You find ways to nurture that – whether it’s space provision or facilitating relationships between them and folks who might be clients of theirs” Lamar said. “Basically what you do is you try to keep your intellectual resources here, and maybe they put roots down instead of pick up and go somewhere else. I’d like to see us work on that.”
Lamar also heard from Suzette Russi, board chair for the Ecosa Institute, who stopped by to encourage a sustainable community.
“A lot of people think that progress has to involve growth,” Russi said. “I don’t believe that. I don’t want our quality of life sacrificed over quantity.”
Lamar, who took notes during the individual meetings, plans to conduct the open-office sessions twice a month – the first and third Wednesday, at the Prescott Public Library.
“I hope it continues and doesn’t die on the vine,” he said.