Prescott Councilman Bob Roecker says he is looking forward to being able to spend more time with his family and at his job at PrintPack after devoting more than a decade of service to the City of Prescott as a councilman and board member. But he walks away feeling good about the achievements he and his fellow council members made in his past two terms as a councilman and confident that strides they took will benefit the community for many years to come.
"All in all, I think we've had a good eight years and I am looking forward to the new council," he said. "I think that change in democratic government is a good thing and I think it's important that once you have served your terms, you need to step aside and let the next group come in and present new ideas and new ways to go. You also have the opportunity to protest if you don't like (decisions they are making).
"I can say that it's been a humbling experience, its been a fulfilling experience and I would say that anybody who can and has the ability to figure out a way to run for office should do it; put yourself out there and see how it goes," Roecker said. "You're looking at a guy that worked full-time while serving on the council so you can't use your job as an excuse. If you get a boss who is willing to allow you to serve your community or happen to be your own boss, you should do it. It's been a privilege and I'm looking forward to seeing what's going to happen in the future."
Roecker recounts his first run for office, where the primary fell on the tragic day of the 9-1-1 disaster and he wasn't able to get back from Grand Prairie, Texas, to celebrate the elcetion he won here in Prescott. "It was the first time mail-in ballots went out in Prescott and the residents showed me they believed in me," he said. 'I thank everybody for voting for me and continuing to trust me. We were fortunate of having good economic times the first six years we were in office and we were able to accomplish many things that I can say I'm proud of."
He spoke of the council's December 2004 purchase of the Kieckheffer Ranch, now renamed the Big Chino Water Ranch in Paulden, as one of the greatest investments for the future of Prescott residents. Roecker took his job as a public watchdog seriously when it came to working toward water conservation and achieving safe yield for the future. He served on the county's water advisory committee and wherever else he was needed to help Prescott secure water rights outside the Prescott Active Management Area so the foundation would be built for water sustainability in years to come.
"We were wrestling with the issue of water and how we were going to provide water for the future," he said. "It's been the most divisive issue and yet, at the same time, it's the most important issue. As we (he and two-term Councilman Bob Bell) leave office, people will move into the future wrestling with this issue but I'm optimistic that we'll stay on target, we'll stay on our path and we'll be able to import water into this wonderful community, hopefully, in the the near future, in the next five years. We'll just keep moving forward. There's a lot left to do and there's been a lot of due diligence. I think we've done a lot of good things there."
But water isn't the only focus Roecker, Bell and their colleagues on the council had.
"We were able to complete the parking garage (on South Granite Street). The good thing about the parking garage is we were able to pay cash for it, like some other good things we were able to do, like the library extension," he said. "We had funds set aside to do that and we did it." Constructing a new, larger adult center for the community; expanding the city fleet garage at the end of Virginia Street, and building a state-of-the-art, regional communications center across the street from city hall were other bright feathers in the caps of council members during his terms. "It's very big that we were able to complete these things, to get the community the things they need; rapid response to 9-1-1 calls is very important for our community."
Additionally, figuring out a way to lease the old Adult Center building on Aubrey Street to the Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona at an affordable rate was something near and dear to Roecker's heart. "I was one of the co-founders of the Boys and Girls Club here in Yavapai County and I'm just so pleased to see it move forward the way it has," he said. "Now we've got a home in Prescott and I think that was a good thing. We got the private sector to make all the improvements that they needed to do over there and that was a good thing. Now they've got a good building there for the kids and they've got a place to go and all the good things about the Boys and Girls Club are happening over there."
Regional cooperation also is important to Roecker and he's proud of the effort that council members and Yavapai County Supervisors put into negotiations to secure the rodeo grounds for the City of Prescott.
"One of the big things we were able to do is acquire the rodeo grounds, even though it needs repairs. We were able to purchase that and there are organizations that have plans together to utilize that property and those facilities for other things beyond just the rodeo," he said. "As time goes by, it will become more and more important to our community. As we look at our City of Prescott, the rodeo grounds are almost geographically in the middle and as time goes by, that property will become more and more used and more and more important."
However, Roecker admits leading the city as a council representative is not always an easy task and some decisions they make can turn around and bite them when least expected.
"We did make some mistakes. We had some goof-ups along the way," he said. "Anybody who ever runs for public office and tells you they've got all the answers and tells you they're going to do everything the right way, well, you need to look at them a little funny because it's just not the case. We're all humans and we're going to make mistakes. The last project that went wrong, even though I think as time goes by it will prove out to be economically beneficial to the city, was Lowes (Home Improvement Store). It was very painful and proved not to be such a good thing for the city but we are on the right path now and doing well."
Roecker explained that council members never anticipated the project engineering problems they encountered when Lowes was built, nor the landslide that impacted the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill where Lowes is located. What council members were aiming to accomplish was boosting the sales tax revenue to pay for future infrastructure needs begging to be addressed.
"And there were some issues with the Granite Dells area that proved to be problematic as well," he said. "But when you start looking at other issues like Granite Dells open space, we've been able to acquire things that will go on beyond any of us alive today and when we look at open space and what this particular council in this period of history has been able to do, we made big acquisitions of open space that will benefit generations to come. The Peavine Trail and what it will be used for is going to be up for discussion but it exists and will bring good things for this community in the future to come.'
Creating the Prescott-Suchitoto (El Salvador) Sister City is a clear example of diplomatic efforts Roecker is pleased the councils he served on were able to make. "Bringing a second sister city to this community was a struggle and it turned out well and we've got a delightful relationship there," he said. "It's working out well and our new mayor and councilwoman Tammy Linn have been instrumental in that. I' m kind of proud of that, too."
As for the future, well, "plans call for retiring here in Prescott and living the rest of my life here," he says. "My spare time already is being filled by my lovely wife. Family support is very critical to any elected official. She retired this year and she's busier now than she ever has been. I probably won't retire for another year or two. I'll probably spend more time at my job, which is probably going to make my boss very happy. I'm sure I'll be plenty busy."
Prescott eNews thanks you Councilman Bob Roecker for all that you've done in your terms serving the City of Prescott and all that you will continue to do for this community you have proven you have a vested interest in!