New Community Development Director Brings Fresh Approach, Perspective

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Jerry Owen -- the town's new community development director -- brings a big-picture perspective to the job.

"He has like 25 years experience as a planner, and he's been the community development director of the city of Cottonwood for over 10 years," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said. "Before that he was a planner for the city of Casa Grande for 11 years."

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Jerry Owen

Owen, who is 49, also emphasized his Arizona experience.

"I think one of the things I bring to Payson is kind of a comprehensive view," he said. "I'm one of about four planners appointed to the governor's Growing Smarter Oversight Council, so I've been exposed to the big picture across the state."

And Owen takes a big picture view of community development.

"It's not just planning and zoning, but it's trying to build the fabric of the community, so I've always tried to get involved in social service-type issues," he said. "Here (in Cottonwood) I started a farmers market in Old Town which is considered kind of a community gathering spot."

Owen said he would put a human face on the job.

"To me this job is bigger than buildings and permits," he said. "It's about people and building a community in terms of those types of activities."

In an interview with the Roundup, just before he retired, Gould emphasized the importance of Main Street.

"The absolute, positive truth is that Main Street is the economic engine for the town of Payson; there is nothing else, and when we acknowledge that then I think we'll start making more investment and making more progress down there," he said.

While he intends to evaluate Payson's Main Street Program, Owen spoke enthusiastically about the Cottonwood program.

"I've been involved and active in the Main Street Program here in Cottonwood and our Old Town area has had kind of a resurgence," he said.

"It's become kind of the dining and night spot area for the whole Verde Valley."

But Main Street needs to be more than an economic engine.

"I believe in the concept of creating a special place in the heart of the community," Owen said. "Every area has to figure out what that is and how you enhance that.

"I'm looking forward to working with the group up there and trying to understand the history of the area, and then I think we need to figure out what the best way to move forward is."

The incoming community development director believes he must build strong relationships to be successful in Payson.

"I can't do anything by myself," he said. "I need to build relationships with the council, the staff, the development community, the builders, the neighborhood groups.

"I can't ride in on a white horse and make big pronouncements. I've got to work within the system and build relationships. I'm confident I can be successful if I have a chance to do that."

Prior to moving to Arizona in 1984, Owen worked for the city of Flint and Genesee County, both in Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in resource development.

His new position will commence on Oct. 25.

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