Town Council candidates face questions from Paradise Valley residents

Posted 5/19/22

The Paradise Valley Town Council race heated up at a community event on May 16, held by a group of involved town residents.

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Town Council candidates face questions from Paradise Valley residents


The Paradise Valley Town Council race heated up at a community event on May 16, held by a group of involved town residents.

The Eagle Society, made up of seven board members, formed in 2021 in an effort to ensure the new general plan was in line with resident wishes, according to Marel Brady. The group attended meetings and wrote letters, as well as collaborated with the mayor and town staff.

“We were instrumental in ensuring that public parks would not be created in our town and that public transport wouldn’t be running through our town,” she said. “We also ensured that town controlled washes are mapped, named and maintained.”

The society has since organized “Conversations with Candidates” events ahead of the upcoming elections for mayor and three open Town Council seats. Events were held in March and April for the two mayoral candidates: Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner and challenger Julie Pace, a current Town Council member.
On the Town Council side, there are three open seats as Councilmembers Ellen Andeen, Paul Dembow and Vice Mayor Anna Thomasson’s terms are nearing end. They are all seeking reelection, along with a fourth challenger, newcomer Christine LaBelle.

During the conversation hosted at the El Chorro Lodge, attended by dozens of concerned Paradise Valley residents, the candidates were given the chance to speak about issues they consider important and take questions from the audience. Candidates drew lots to establish the speaking order. Each was given 13 minutes to speak, including time to take residents’ questions.

Andeen emphasized her strong town roots as a third-generation Paradise Valley resident whose father also served on the council in the 1980s.

Andeen talked about being a voice against short-term rentals in the area and ensuring the town’s open space remains just that, sticking to the motto “Don’t let Paradise Valley become Paradise Alley.”

“We have a unique community and a rural-type feeling in an urban setting,” she said. “I’m determined to keep that.”

Former Mayor Scott LeMarr was in the audience and asked her about the town’s plan for an oncoming “economic adjustment”, comparing the situation to 2008 when the town suffered revenue losses.

Andeen, whose background is in banking, said the situation is being closely monitored but that residents shouldn’t be too worried.

“We have a healthy cash reserve, about $70 million,” she said. “We are fortunate we are in the place we are, but we have to be mindful of it.”

Another resident asked her about resort development, including the new Ritz-Carlton and the upcoming redevelopment of the SmokeTree Resort.

“We need a refresh from time to time, just like your council needs a refresh,” she said.

Dembow spoke next, using all 13 minutes allotted to him to discuss his voting record on support for the police force and keeping one house per acre in the town’s zoning.

He said he wants to keep the town going on its current path.

“The main objective is always to have the best outcome for the town,” said Dembow, who has served the town for 11 years.

Thomasson has served on the council for the past four years and said she has been a “strong voice” when it comes to resort development and working with local law enforcement.

Like Dembow, she said the council needs to continue doing what it’s already doing.

“We have an awesome town,” she said. “The council today needs to keep that up. We need to keep listening, keep paying attention and keep hanging onto our values.”

In response, a resident asked if she could pinpoint anything the council has gotten wrong.

“Any organization, if they’re really good, there’s room for improvement,” she answered.

Another resident brought up concerns about garbage trucks out in the town from 5 to 7 a.m. on different days, calling it a “danger in our town.”

Thomasson sympathized, but said residents advocated to have trucks collect garbage on days of their choosing.

LaBelle, the only candidate not currently serving on the council, went last. She said that, as a newcomer, she hopes to bring a “fresh energy” and “new eyes” to the group.

The Realtor, who has lived in Paradise Valley for 45 years, said she began to get involved with town issues when she worked to shut down a problematic party house in her neighborhood. Now, she hopes to serve on the council herself.

“I want to create an environment where new people feel welcomed, even to run for council if they can do good,” she said.

A resident asked her two questions about the council’s lack of technology, which LaBelle says makes it hard to find things like town code online, and the council’s relationship with the local schools. LaBelle said teachers should “have input on things affecting them.”

The election will take place on Aug. 2.


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