By Robert Pickels, City Attorney
Sedona AZ (September 15, 2016) – It is hard for me to believe that my wife, Lisa, and I have now been Sedona residents for well over a year. So much has happened in the city in the time we have been here. Our adjustment to life in Sedona has been amazing and we now feel as if this is truly home for us.
In reflecting back on my experiences in the city attorney’s office over the past year, I have to first thank our talented and dedicated staff for helping me to put a new brand on our department. Though we still have the legacy of past leadership to inspire us, we are now a very different group.
Assistant City Attorney Lisa Weiler-Parsons has infused new energy into city prosecutions and Legal Assistant Katie Johnson keeps all of us on task. With the recent retirement of longtime Assistant City Attorney Ron Ramsey, the office has been consolidated in an effort to become more operationally and fiscally efficient.
I experienced a number of significant events during my first year as city attorney. Right out of the gate was the human rights ordinance. This issue provided a great opportunity for me to experience the passion and engagement in city affairs by specific interest groups within the city. Although it probably created an unrealistic expectation on my part that the council chambers would be full for every meeting, it was refreshing to see so many people come forward to express themselves in a constructive manner. When the action was completed, the community seemingly accepted the result and moved forward together.
Right on the heels of the human rights ordinance was the national monument discussion and debate. This issue was fascinating in that it brought out multiple viewpoints and included layers beyond those which were most obvious to me. The transfer of public lands as a general concept seemed to have little to do with the designation of a national monument, but the former issue became quite prominent in the process. Ultimately, the legal position of the city was that it had no authority to meaningfully participate in the process. National monument designation is an executive process for the president of the United States. Although the city’s opinion might carry some influence, there was no official role for the city to play.
Through the winter months, the discussion about solid waste hauling within the city became a prominent topic of discussion. Although some have been critical of the process as being too hasty, I have found it to be quite the opposite. The council and city leadership team have exercised great diligence in acquiring a large volume of information in an effort to make a well-informed decision for the community. That, I believe, is a model for how difficult issues should be managed. Regardless of the ultimate decision, I am very impressed with the process.
Getting to know the respective personalities of the City Council, city manager and staff has been very pleasant for me. Understanding why individuals tend to support particular positions on matters of public business is important in developing a constructive rapport. Add to this mix the resignation of two councilormembers in less than a year and the dynamic was even more challenging. The process for filling one of the vacancies was, I thought, quite efficient. My overall impression of this dedicated group of community leaders is that they all share a passion for the city and its prosperity. I am grateful for the opportunities that they have given to me.
Perhaps the most significant development during this past year from a legal perspective was the introduction and ultimate passing of Senate Bill 1350, the short-term vacation rental bill. The immediate impact to Sedona residents may seem obvious to some, but the lasting effects likely will not be realized until we see how the new law is utilized in the future. Regardless, the process of monitoring the bill and defending our right to local control over city affairs was a positive learning experience for many of us.
As I continue to learn and grow both in my position as city attorney and as a resident of Sedona, I have frequent reminders of how blessed we are to be here. Sedona is a special place in which I am proud to serve.