As you may know, the Cave Creek town council recently dumped their longtime city manager, in a dramatic fashion not unlike the recent departure of a Scottsdale city manager. Ironically, among the applicants for the newly-open Cave Creek post is David Richert, that very same former Scottsdale city manager.
Frankly, I disagreed with just about everything Richert did in Scottsdale, as well as the way he did those things. However, he was doing what Mayor Jim Lane and the City Council wanted him to do, and then they threw him under the bus as a measure of political expediency in the face of city elections that were looming.
Philip Haldiman interviewed Richert in today’s Scottsdale Republic. Here is an excerpt, which is instructive for the situation we have in Scottsdale as well as Cave Creek:
Question: Right now things are pretty divided in Cave Creek. What are your thoughts on the town’s financial and political state?
Answer: In most communities today, financial issues seem to be front and center based upon the national economics since 2008. Cave Creek, in its desire to maintain its unique and small-town atmosphere, has struggled with increasing demands on their budget and diminishing revenues while the community is expecting the same or better services.
There comes a point when either services need to be diminished and/or cut completely or new revenue sources need to be identified without changing the character of the town. The role of a city manager is to develop a clear understanding with the mayor and town council on their goals, and prepare options with professional recommendations to allow them to resolve the community concerns in a consensus-driven manner.
Q: What are your thoughts on Cave Creek as a place to work, visit and live?
A: Cave Creek is a wonderful mix of small community values and experiences. The town is nicely formed around its very pleasurable natural environment. Many of the employment opportunities support much of the existing stores, entertainment and eating establishments. The large job base is within normal travel patterns and really provides the best of both worlds for residents and their families.
Keeping the unique development style can promote tourism and vacationers without requiring larger commercialization. However, all smaller communities need to develop sustainable budgets to manage future expenses. There is also a reasonable blend of housing opportunities from the large lot to somewhat denser living environments.
I have worked in the political arena all my career, and a public servant’s role is to understand the politics but not become apart of them. The manager serves the mayor and town council equally and offers his or her best professional recommendations to allow the decision makers to adopt actions that move the community ahead in a positive direction.
Q: What is your political experience?
A: I am currently consulting on land-use issues and development projects, and working part-time for an information- age securities company. I was the Scottsdale city manager from 2009 to 2012.
Q: What strengths would you bring to the town?
A: I am known as a person who gets the job done when directed to do so. I have a great understanding of the Valley and state including the State Land Department and Federal Land Exchange programs.
I’ve dealt with difficult budgets many times in Phoenix and solved a $90 million shortfall in Scottsdale in 1-1 ⁄ 2 years. We also created a five-year sustainable budget, which is on track since I left.
I can develop policy to promote economic growth without altering Cave Creek’s environment. Otherwise, I treat all my staff and community in a warm, open way to create a sense of teamwork.
The two obvious questions that Haldiman did NOT ask: 1) What went wrong in Scottsdale, and 2) How would you do things different in Cave Creek?