Scottsdale city volunteers offer unparalleled community dedication

From left are Scottsdale volunteers Joanie Millavec and Denise Carpenter as they work to preserve native vegetation at the Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. (Submitted photo)

From left are Scottsdale volunteers Joni Millavec and Denise Carpenter as they work to preserve native vegetation at the Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. (Submitted photo)

Scottsdale has a paid workforce and accompanying payroll to match its size and scope, but a lot of the important work is done by those who get paid nothing to contribute their time and energy to their hometown.

As the city of Scottsdale wraps up its latest call seeking applicants for 16 vacancies on local advisory boards and commissions, officials say volunteer service is an important component of the day-to-day operations of the municipality.

It is estimated in calendar year 2014 about 4,000 Scottsdale resident volunteers contributed over 200,000 hours of service to the community through work on various aspects of municipal government.

As the week of April 15 is recognized as National Volunteer Week, Scottsdale officials say the number of hours of service recorded equates to an estimated $4.8 million dollars in savings to local taxpayers.

“Citizens play a critical role assisting the city of Scottsdale to execute the mission of ‘simply better service for a world-class community,’” said Cindi Eberhardt, Scottsdale citywide volunteer program director.

“Using the value of $22.52/hour provided by the independent sector for volunteer time, this equates to services valued at over $4.8 million dollars. In addition, more than 150 citizens volunteer on our city boards, commissions and task forces.”

Ms. Eberhardt says a feeling of “giving back” is often a sentiment expressed by volunteers on why they choose to lend their time and effort for free.

Scottsdale Fire Department Dick Heesch. (Submitted photo)

Scottsdale Fire Department Dick Heesch. (Submitted photo)

“Having a citywide volunteer program provides an opportunity for the city to enhance services provided to our citizens and visitors without the additional cost to the taxpayers,” she said.

“The majority of city volunteers tend to be retired seniors that also enjoy the socialization aspect of volunteering with others in their peer groups; it also provides an opportunity to be affiliated with an organization that works with city staff to serve the public.”

Scottsdale volunteers can be found in a wide range of services — including the libraries, parks and recreation, police and fire departments, senior centers, human services, food bank, Paiute neighborhood center and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, according to Ms. Eberhardt.

Volunteer opportunities offer residents a specific set of duties important to daily operations, Ms. Eberhardt says.

“The fire department is another area that enlists the assistance of citizens to provide administrative, operational and public education support,” she pointed out.

“Volunteers deliver mail and supplies daily between the fire stations and headquarters, schedule car-seat inspections, conduct hands-only CPR classes and provide other public education and safety programming for the community.”

Boards and commissions

Friday, April 10 marks the end of the city’s current call for applicants to fill vacancies on its volunteer boards and commissions.

The city of Scottsdale enlists the help of 12 volunteer advisory boards and commissions in a number of areas:

  • Board of Adjustment
  • Building Advisory Board of Appeals
  • Environmental Quality Advisory Board
  • Historic Preservation Commission
  • Library Board
  • Loss Trust Fund Board
  • McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission
  • Neighborhood Advisory Commission
  • Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Planning Commission
  • Tourism Development Commission
  • Transportation Commission

Commission members serve three-year terms and often have to fill a specific role on the advisory panel, city officials say.

“It really depends, and sometimes we have tons of people that put in applications and then we will go through dry spells where we don’t get many at all,” said Kevin McKee of the Scottsdale mayor’s office.

“It depends on which board of commission we are recruiting for.”

The popular advisory panels are the airport advisory, parks and recreation, planning and preserve commissions, according to Mr. McKee.

“A few of the positions have special requirements. For instance, the historical preservation commission, they require an architect, a real estate agent and a historian or an archeologist,” he said.

Boards or commissions that require special backgrounds or specific skills can be tough to fill. At least in Scottsdale, however, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of interest in serving on city boards.

Mr. McKee points out there are 47 applications on file for 16 openings across the 12 city boards and commissions.

Scottsdale City Council is expected to  make its nominations from that applicant pool during the April 28 meeting. Interviews are scheduled for May 12 at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

While it’s typical for current board members to re-apply once their terms expire, Mr. McKee says each commission and boards carries a term limit.

“From what I have seen, the majority of board and commission members do re-apply when their first term ends, but we do have term limits that limit it to two terms,” he said. “And, from what I have seen over the last few recruitments, it has been a lot of new applicants.”

Mr. McKee says the city generally seeks new applicants four times a year.

“This is pretty standard depending on what we get by the end of the week,” he said in an April 7 phone interview. “This is pretty typical.”

Mr. McKee points out if a board or commission has a vacancy with no applications on file, then the outgoing member can continue to fill that seat until replaced.

‘Temperature of the community’

Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte says she finds value in the input provided by appointed members of the municipality’s various boards and commissions.

Virginia Korte

Virginia Korte

“Boards and commissions are a good filter that provide council members the temperature of the community,” she said in an April 7 phone interview.

She points to the transportation commission’s current effort to update the city’s master transportation plan — something that will guide how transportation and mass-transit evolve within city limits.

“That is a critical update to help guide the decisions of the future of Scottsdale,” she said.

Some commissions play a critical role in serving as a bridge between the federal government and local social service endeavors, Councilwoman Korte explains.

“The human services commissions federal dollars that go back into our social services,” she said. “That plays a critical role in evaluating the nonprofits that provide social services to residents in our community — without that we wouldn’t have a process with integrity.”

Integrity is something Councilwoman Korte say can extend to community service oftentimes through the efforts of a volunteer base.

“Those individuals that spend their time volunteering understand the need for providing the level of service that our residents and visitors expect from our city,” she explained.

“They understand the one-on-one service that people in the library or people stepping onto a trail they expect — it’s just part of our culture.”

Go to www.scottsdaleaz.gov/volunteer.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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