Beck Barrels Out Of Her Comfort Zone


The Roundup has been trying to charm Beth Beck into doing a Payson People profile for years now. But somehow, the Parks and Recreation Department's former recreation coordinator (1998 to last week) and the town's brand-new grants coordinator always managed to elude the torture.

Beck continued to elude it just this past weekend, after we had finally cornered her at which point she promptly attempted to wrangle herself back out of submission.

Happily, the American press and you, the enquiring reader are the victors of this battle. Here's what we waited for all those years.

Q: What were the challenges that attracted you to your new job as the Town of Payson's grants coordinator?

A: I really loved the work I did at Parks and Rec. It was challenging and fulfilling, because you could see your projects through and you got to work with kids ... But the new position forces me to step outside of my comfort zone, and I have a tendency to get comfortable with what I'm doing and just want to stay with that ...

"When this opportunity came up out of the blue, I didn't think anything of it but other people kept saying, 'You'd be great for that job.' But I was feeling that I had finally come to understand my job at Parks and Rec was able to really put some finesse into the events ... The more I thought about the grants job, though, the better it sounded. I have a foundation in grants from Illinois, where I did grants for three years. This job takes my experience to the next level.

Q: How does your new position work?

A: "The grants coordinator both writes and administers the town's grants ... The town has a lot of projects that are funded through grant money, and one of the largest duties of the grant coordinator is to administer the Community Development Block Grants.

"Payson, like other communities throughout the state, gets this money in a two-year funding cycle. Every year, we get the money, and the town decides how we're going to spend it. Then we spend the next two years organizing the projects, tracking the projects, billing

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billing for the projects. A lot of it is housing and commercial rehabilitation. And we have to keep track of all that in order to be reimbursed by the state ..."

"The other part of the job is working closely with the various department heads to find new funding sources. Once I have gone out, looked for new funding sources and obtained them, my job will be to administer those grants as well, and make sure that we do all of the reporting. Because with grants, if you don't document and prove that you've done what you said you would, you don't get the money back."

Q: Is it really possible that you're really from Kankakee, Ill., made famous in many songs recorded by Groucho Marx?

A: I'm not really from Kankakee, but I was born there. I grew up about a half-hour south of Kankakee between the cornfields and the beanfields. I moved west when I was in college and got a summer internship in San Francisco in 1990. They had given me a travel budget, so I decided to drive back and forth to see as much of the country as possible. On one trip, on my way back, I saw the Grand Canyon and came down through Payson.

"It's such a cliche, but I came down from the top of the Rim and thought, 'I want to live here.' ... Payson just seemed so down-to-earth and friendly and homey. And then I successfully badgered a succession of editors here at the Roundup until they finally gave me a full-time reporter's job in 1995 ... I was here for three years."

Q: And they were the best years of your life, weren't they?

A: "They were ... interesting. (Beck smiles coyly.) It was in 1998 when the position at Parks and Rec opened up, and I made that move ... My favorite thing about that job was to spend six months planning all the details of an event, like the town's July 4th celebration, and the seeing everybody have a great time when it finally happens. To pull off something of that magnitude, especially for the kids, was extremely satisfying."

"I had a tough time deciding to make the switch to grants coordinator, partly because I was in my comfort zone, and partly because it gave me the chance to touch people's lives and to see their happiness because of it.

"But with the new position, it will be a similar situation. I'll have to do all of the foundation work, all the legwork, pay attention to all the details, get the grant money and hopefully, in the years to come, I can say, 'I helped obtain that building,' or 'I helped get that ladder truck for the town,' or 'I helped provide these services for people that they otherwise would not have been able to get.' So it all evens out very nicely."

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