Ron Robinson took over the office of Town Manager on July 1. Photo by Aisha Sander

By Aisha Sander

Ron Robinson was chosen by the Town Council to be the new Town Manager for Patagonia after a selection process that included interviewing five candidates.

Robinson is a retired private businessman who moved to Patagonia from North Carolina with his wife Deborah in August 2018. His in-laws moved to Patagonia in the early 1990’s and he has been visiting this town ever since. Robinson said, “seeing how little things have changed in Patagonia over the years attracted us to move here, along with my sister-in-law
Tempest Smith who encouraged us to live here.”

When the position for Town Manager was posted his family urged him to apply. Robinson began with studying town council minutes and the Town Plan.

After getting a feel of this town he realized “he doesn’t have to do this job, he wants to do this job.” He knows that government is entirely different from private business and he is
excited by the challenge.

He took over the position on July 1, 2019. Robinson said that the town employees are kind,
educated and invested, which “is priceless.”

In his first few weeks he has spent time with each employee, from trash pick up to maintaining the town park, to learn the town codes and to also have an appreciation for what each employee does. He observed that most town residents do not follow town code for trash disposal and that the town employees were picking up the slack.

Robinson said that his greatest challenges for now are to catch up on all the files about town infrastructure and improve his grant writing skills. He said he is committed to responding to town residents and all their concerns, and will “take everything seriously.”

When asked about the recent request by South32 lawyers for all public records related to the Special Use Permit Application in March 2019, Robinson said that the request has
been satisfied and sees it as a sign that the company is monitoring the Town.

He said he is, “not anti-mine or promine, I am pro-town,” summing up his intention that he wants to focus on the Town plan’s mission, which is to “maintain and enhance the town without disturbing the environment.” Robinson also wants to emphasize Patagonia becoming sustainable without depending on mining industry, and instead wants to promote the vision in the Town Plan to increase local businesses that align with the Town’s character.

He said that he wants town residents to enjoy what we have and that “even when we are challenged by differences to enjoy the challenge.”

The Duties of the Town Manager

By Lynn Davison

The town manager is somewhat like the CEO of a private business or the executive director of a nonprofit organization, but operating within numerous county, state, and federal regulations that govern public entities. The town manager directly supervises or oversees the work of all department heads, including the town marshall, and handles all human resource matters.

The town manager reports to the town council, which is like a board of directors for a business. Practically speaking, the town manager reports to the mayor who operates as the chair/president of the council. The council sets policy, adopts and monitors plans, approves and oversees the annual budget, and is ultimately responsible for the operations and finances of the town government.

Patagonia is one of the smallest incorporated jurisdictions in the U.S., with an estimated population in 2017 of 817 people. The annual budget projection for 2019 is $ 1,728,706, down 26% from 2018.

The Patagonia Town Council conducted the hiring process to select the new town manager. There were nine applicants for the job which was posted on the Town of Patagonia and the
Arizona League of Cities and Towns websites. The full council interviewed five candidates on May 24, all of whom are currently living in the State of Arizona. Two of the candidates were local. The interviews were open to the public.

The town manager/council model is the most common form of government for incorporated cities and towns in the State of Arizona. In Santa Cruz County, there are only two incorporated jurisdictions, Nogales and Patagonia. Both use the town manager/council form of government.

There are, of course, many other communities in Santa Cruz County like Sonoita, Elgin, Rio Rico, or Tubac. As they are not incorporated, the county is their local government.