Mayor: Welcome to Flagstaff! Tell us a little bit about you.
Watson: I’ve spent nearly four decades in the workforce – seven years in the private sector and one in the nonprofit environment, six years in Europe and U.S. higher education institutions and 24 years in public service. I’ve worked for Coca Cola USA, the United States Senate, and three state universities. My municipal experience includes one smaller community (Oro Valley) and medium-sized cities such as Omaha and now the beautiful city of Flagstaff. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master of Public Administration. My passion has been to be involved and volunteer in every community, raising our two daughters to practice giving back to the neighborhood or area in which we live.
Mayor: Why did you want to come to Flagstaff?
Watson: Flagstaff was appealing for a number of reasons. Arizona is my home, and I have had the privilege of working for the citizens of this state in the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas the past 17 years, so looking north was a natural next step. Flagstaff is also twice the size of the last city where I was city manager and as the largest city in a huge county, is a local government that provides a broader array of public services that offer new challenges and diversity. Four seasons and beautiful scenery was appealing, but what I learned about the progressive leadership and dedication of Flagstaff employees became one of the biggest draws.
Mayor: What divisions/program are you responsible for?
Watson: My team includes Community Development (planning, zoning, codes, inspections, engineering, housing and capital improvements), Community Enrichment (recreation, libraries and special events), Public Works (streets, fleet, landfill, sanitation, cemetery, environmental & sustainability services), Economic Vitality (business attraction and retention, airport, convention & visitors bureau, community redevelopment & historic preservation), City Clerk (Council business record keeping and posting, city records, elections, codes codification, and liquor licenses) and Real Estate Manager.
Mayor: What do you see as the strengths of Economic Vitality for Flagstaff?
Watson: I could name so many….our local businesses, the McMillan Mesa incubator – NACET, our large corporate citizens such as WL Gore, our bioscience partners located at the airport are integral anchors to continued and future growth of our community. The synergy of successful businesses and industry attracting companies, and a diverse employment base is a desirable part of the playbook that creates a business environment ripe for growth. Our partnership with Northern Arizona University is definitely a strength. Our employee team led by our high-energy director, Stacey Button, has the talent, passion, vision, and understanding of how to develop business partnerships that guide the programs and make key recommendations for progress and growth.
Mayor: What has surprised you most about the Flagstaff community?
Watson: I think it is the mix and diversity of what the community has to offer. It has been wonderful serendipity in so many ways. The amenities like the Aquaplex and Heritage Square activities and businesses are examples of “something for everyone.” I love our very busy, inviting library, enjoy sleeping with windows open at night in the cool mountain air, and really like the “lodge-like” look and architecture found in public buildings, churches, and eateries, especially those that incorporate the stone, timber and lava rock materials. It is quickly obvious the people of this community care for one another and residents work together to make this a highly desirable place to live, raise a family, work, get educated and definitely to play! FBN
Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler was elected in 2008. Mayor Presler has a private law practice in Flagstaff. She writes this column as an individual and not as an official statement from the Flagstaff City Council.